Racial profiling, carding, and “street checks” – what are they?

Being stopped or pulled over by police can be stressful, frustrating, and difficult for anyone.

It may be even worse if you think that the reason for the stop has to do with your race or ethnic background, if you have been stopped for no good reason, or if the officer is not respectful to you.

Racial profiling by police includes situations where a Black, Indigenous or other racialized individual is stopped by police while walking, while out with friends, while driving, etc. for no good reason, (or during driving stops when police are not required to have a reason), and when the police decision to act is even partly influenced by racial stereotypes or bias. It is also profiling if you are from a racialized or marginalized group and police or security officers treat you as suspicious when they have no good reason to believe you have done anything wrong. The attitudes that lead to racial profiling might be consciously or unconsciously held, so a police officer might not be doing something deliberately or obviously racist, and might not even be aware that they have a bias. The way police forces operate as a system can also lead to racial profiling.

Racial profiling is defined as

“any act or omission related to actual or claimed reasons of safety, security or public protection, by an organization or individual in a position of authority, that results in greater scrutiny, lesser scrutiny or other negative treatment based on race, colour, ethnic origin, ancestry, religion, place of origin or related stereotypes.”

Carding and “Street checks”

When police interact with individuals – often Black, Indigenous or other racialized or marginalized people – and stop them, ask accusatory questions, demand ID, or record the person’s information in a police database for no good reason, these interactions are sometimes known as carding or “street checks.”

CCLA and other rights advocates believe that carding or “checking” anyone in this way, and in particular racialized and marginalized people, is unconstitutional.

Racialized and marginalized people include Black, Indigenous, 2SLGBTQI+, and street-involved individuals, and persons with disabilities.