An Edmonton non-profit has created a new wallet-sized card to help Indigenous people know their rights if stopped by police in Alberta.
The statement to police card created by the Native Counselling Services of Alberta (NCSA) provides a list of people’s rights and a paragraph that can be read to police. It also lists the organization’s contact information.
Staff say the card is to help Indigenous people invoke their rights.
“This is basically to help, especially in interactions with the police where it’s potentially a crisis, or you get flustered or caught off guard, to just have what you need to say there, so police also know that there are responsibilities on both sides,” said Daena Crosby, director of legal education, media and research with NCSA.
“We tried to make it as easy as possible.”
The NCSA offered a slightly different version of the card previously, and the new iteration of the free card was started shortly after the provincial government banned the practice of carding by police last November and imposed new rules on street checks.
“This is an NCSA-specific project so it is focused on Indigenous communities themselves but with Black Lives Matter and the conviction yesterday for George Floyd’s murder, this information is paramount to all people, all Canadians. Everyone has the right to know what their legal rights are,” said Crosby.
“It’s just getting access to that information that’s a challenge and having the tools the people need to be able to keep themselves alert to what their rights are and also safe in those interactions as well.”
Carding is “disproportionately targeting Indigenous and Black communities in Alberta,” NCSA said in a news release.
“NCSA recognizes that the solutions to systemic racism go well beyond this card. However, this is one small step in the right direction.”
Carding refers to arbitrary stops by police and asking members of the public for their personal information, even if there is no suspicion of wrongdoing.
Ajay Juneja, a criminal defence lawyer in Edmonton, said the card will help people know their rights.
“This is particularly important for [Indigenous people] and the majority of clients serviced by Native Counselling Services because they’re disproportionately targeted by the police, subject to street checks and carding,” he said.
“I think this card will go a long way assisting people in knowing when they have the right to not identify themselves and to walk away.”
A 2017 CBC News investigation found that in 2016, Indigenous women were nearly 10 times as likely to be street checked as white women.
The same year, Indigenous people were six times more likely than white people to be stopped by Edmonton police. Black people were almost five times as likely as white people to be stopped, data showed.
Carding was banned by the provincial government last year but street checks, when police say there is a specific reason to stop and question a member of the public, continue.
Edmonton Police Service staff worked with NCSA to develop the card, according to the NCSA press release.
“We see the value in this card as an opportunity to provide that knowledge and mutual understanding between individuals and officers regarding their rights and responsibilities … we hope it removes any feelings of fear or uncertainty while also allowing room to build on relationships with the communities our members serve,” EPS Deputy Chief Alan Murphy said in a statement.
Crosby said the goal now is to circulate the free cards, which can be downloaded online, to as many Indigenous communities in Alberta as possible.
“The more people who know, the better.”
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