A high-profile Toronto writer and antiracist activist says he was “carded” by Vancouver police about 24 hours after arriving in the city.
Desmond Cole went on Twitter on November 13 to say that he was walking on the sidewalk near Stanley Park when a police cruiser passed by. He said that the car then turned around, came up beside him, and the officer claimed that he was violating a city bylaw by smoking in a public park.
“I was on the sidewalk,” Cole said on his Twitter feed. “I was not in the public park.”
Cole insisted that he was stopped for no justifiable reason, which made him feel “really shitty”. He emphasized that this happens all the time to blacks and to Indigenous people, which can lead to them “being arrested, being beaten, or worse”.
“We can even lose our lives from this ridiculous practice,” Cole said.
The Vancouver Police Department issued a statement saying that the claims that Cole made in the video are "not accurate".
"A street check was not conducted and no information was recorded," Const. Jason Doucette said in a written statement. "The officer did approach Mr. Cole about a bylaw infraction. In this case, our officer used his discretion and chose not to serve a bylaw offence ticket."
According to Cole, the unnamed officer asked for his name. When Cole refused to comply with the request, he claimed that the officer said that he could put him in handcuffs and take him to the police station.
“This has happened to me so many times I already know what the questions are going to be and I know what’s coming,” Cole said.
Cole was in Vancouver at the invitation of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The organization’s B.C. director, Seth Klein, tweeted that he’s “embarrassed” for his city and expressed sorrow to Cole for what happened at the hands of Vancouver police.
In 2015, Cole wrote an article in Toronto Life revealing that he has been interrogated by police more than 50 times, simply because he’s black.
“As my encounters with police became more frequent, I began to see every uniformed office as a threat,” he stated in the article. “The cops stopped me anywhere they saw me, particularly at night.”
Prior to being carded in Vancouver, Cole was planning to meet with someone with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association about the propensity of police to ask for identification from blacks and Indigenous people.
He declared on Twitter that he has now “literally experienced” this on the streets of Vancouver”.
Cole stated that he was going to file a complaint with the Vancouver Police Department.
“We can’t continue to live like this and to pray, walking through the streets, that you’re [the police] not going to terrorize us,” he said.
In June, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs filed a complaint with the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner highlighting a “significant racial disparity” in the VPD’s street checks.
Over a 10-year period, about 15 percent of such checks involved Indigenous people even though they comprise about two percent of the city’s population. The two groups also stated that four percent of street checks over a 10-year period involved people of African ancestry, who comprise less than one percent of the city’s population.
“The statistics on racial disparity in street carding demonstrate the lived reality of institutional racism that our people face despite the public rhetoric and celebrations around reconciliation,” UBCIC vice president Chief Bob Chamberlin said in a news release.More