Amrik Singh Ahluwalia wasted no time charting a new direction
for the force on Friday, renewing the fight against street checks.
doesn’t affect brown people and white people — it affects black males.”
With that sharp rebuke of a report on police street checks — insisting
that it missed the essence of the controversy — the man now heading the
oversight of Peel Region police made clear that change is coming.
Minutes after Amrik Singh Ahluwalia stood Friday morning and moved to
his new seat following his unanimous election as chair of the Peel
Police Services Board, he joined other members calling for change within
the country’s third-largest municipal police force.
The first issue: frustration with a consultant’s report commissioned
by police chief Jennifer Evans.
“It was offensive,” said Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey, who just
moments earlier had nominated Ahluwalia for the job as chair. “It was
supporting the status quo,” Jeffrey said of the report, put together and
presented by Louise Doucet and Liz Torlee, joint managing directors of
TerraNova, a strategic marketing company.
Ahluwalia’s leadership could spell trouble for Evans if she continues
to challenge the board on the controversial issue of police street
checks, known as carding in Toronto. Unlike the outgoing chair, Laurie
Williamson, who sided with Evans on the issue, Ahluwalia says the
practice is harmful and has to stop.
“It disproportionately effects one segment of the society,” Ahluwalia
told the Star after the meeting. “Three-and-a-half times the probability
of stopping black men — it effects them significantly.”
In September, the Star published six years of street check data,
obtained from the force under freedom of information laws, that showed
black individuals were three times as likely to be stopped by Peel
police as whites.
The next day, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, Jeffrey, Ahluwalia
and Norma Nicholson won a 4-3 vote to stop street checks, requesting
that Evans take immediate action. She refused, claiming they did not
have authority over her on operational matters. Anti-carding advocates,
including the Law Union of Ontario, have refuted this claim. In October
the provincial government announced it will ban the practice of random
Sophia Brown Ramsay, programming director for the Black Community Action
Network of Peel, attended Friday’s meeting and is thrilled to have a new
chair who supports her group’s goal to end street checks.
“Oh my goodness, it is exactly what we have been pulling for. We have
spoken to the board in the past. What I love about what our new chair
said is we have to work collectively. It’s extremely encouraging to have
someone from the South Asian community have that gusto, to say he wants
to work with us.”
That kind of collaboration between Peel’s large visible minority
groups would help overcome a lack of understanding, Ramsay said.
After the report commissioned by Evans was presented, board member
Nicholson voiced concerns about that lack of understanding, evidenced by
its descriptions of three public street check consultation sessions in
She singled out one passage in the report that states, “very few
young people” with “first-hand experience with street checks attended.”
It then states that “many of those who did admitted to the facilitators
(TerraNova) that they had been ‘called up’ for support by staunch
opponents.” The report states that “several” of these young people,
“were promised pizza in return for sharing their negative street check
Nicholson called the passage, “embarrassing”. She told the TerraNova
directors not to “judge” the youth who did take the time to attend the
sessions and share their experiences. She asked Evans to remove the
section about youth being coerced for pizza before the report is
formally made public.
The description did not match the Star’s observation of the one
session it attended, when numerous young black men, as well as some in
their 30s and 40s, spoke emotionally about their own experiences with
Ahluwalia told the presenters the same. “There were a lot of comments
that were made that I think have been missed.”
Jeffrey told Evans and the report’s presenters that it did not square
with much of what she heard at the public consultations. She mentioned a
teacher with two young kids who told the mayor he had been stopped for
street checks three times, in front of them and even in front of his
colleagues. “What was his crime? He was black.”
“He asked, ‘how do I teach my children to have respect for the
police?’, when he was being regularly stopped.”
Evans said the report and the comments made by board members Friday
would be a “topic of discussion again with my command team. There is a
lot of work to be done,” she said, adding that there is a need, “to
“Not just in Peel, but policing in general is coming under scrutiny.”