From the Yonge Street Riot to the Carding Controversy: Policing and Surveilling the Black Community in Toronto, Canada, 1992-2016
In the last decade, the conversation surrounding racial profiling and carding in the city of Toronto garnered much public and scholarly attention. Many journalists, academics and activists have examined the Community Contacts Policy, also known as carding, as well as mass incarceration and the police shootings and killings of unarmed, young Black men. The Yonge Street Uprising and the carding controversy in Toronto serve as two case studies to explore the ways that Black men have been disproportionately profiled, policed and surveilled in this country, particularly in the province of Ontario. Despite the fact that the Yonge Street Uprising and the carding controversy occurred decades apart, a common thread throughout both cases was the narrative of Black male criminality. In addition, it became apparent that many of the practices employed in contemporary society, such as racial profiling, carding and mass incarceration were derived from slavery, with the goal of limiting the freedom and mobility of Black people. Therefore, an examination of Canada’s historical treatment of Black people is necessary in order to demonstrate how practices rooted in slavery, such as, fugitive slave advertisements and historical representations of Black criminality helped inform current police practices. Through an analysis of historical, legal, criminological, and critical race scholarship, this work seeks to examine how and why Black people, specifically Black men, were and continue to be disproportionately more likely to be policed, surveilled and incarcerated. In addition, neighborhood contexts were examined to determine whether there was a relationship between police stop and search practices among different neighborhoods. An analysis of quantitative and qualitative data gathered from various bodies of criminological and legal research, and reports commissioned by the Ontario government, provide support for the theory that the Canadian state criminalize and incarcerates certain populations it deems undesirable. Additionally, a consistent theme throughout this analysis was a heightened sense of anxiety and threat that whites have historically exemplified in relation to Black immigration, mobilization and resistance.