Crime, Published Articles, Toronto Politics

Carding a blight on multicultural Toronto

Jeremy Appel
Originally published in Humber Et Cetera

Tactics used by Toronto police lag far behind the city’s rich multiculturalism, according to critics, and nowhere is this more evident than with carding – a practice community advocates say amounts to racial profiling.

That was the message Jamil Jivani of the Policing Literacy Initiative brought to Humber Lakeshore campus Wednesday for the latest installment of the President’s Lecture Series.

The lecture, entitled “Bridging the Divide Between Police and the Community,” fell on the one-year anniversary of the Ferguson, Mo., grand jury’s decision not to charge Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown.

“Why does a Canadian sitting in Toronto look at what’s happening in Ferguson on CNN and feel like there’s a connection to that?” Jivani asked.

It’s because of the racial biases shared by police in both the U.S. and Canada, said Jivani. Carding is a manifestation of this systemic racism, he continued.

Jivani defines carding as when one is “stopped for no criminal investigation,” but has “personal information recorded by a police officer and then entered into a database.”

After studying police data obtained through a Freedom of Information request, a 2012 Toronto Star  investigative report concluded that black Torontonians are four times more likely to get carded than their white counterparts.

Andray Domise, co-host of the Canadaland Commons political podcast, is a long-time Rexdale resident who’s seen the effects of racial profiling on his community.

“If I am stopped and carded, then the information from that interaction can find its way through some database, which then comes back to haunt me later on,” Domise said. “I’ve spoken to people who that’s actually happened to.

“It used to be that (the police) could repress you physically, but now they can repress you socially,” he said.

Domise emphasized that not all Toronto cops are racist. From his experiences in Rexdale, he noticed many officers making genuine efforts to engage with the community and its leaders.

But these efforts are undermined by TAVIS (Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy) officers who are sent from outside to intensively police neighbourhoods perceived as crime ridden.  They have no genuine connections, social or otherwise, with the areas they police.

“They don’t care about working with people. What they care about is getting their arrests (and) their carding information,” he said.

Former Toronto mayor John Sewell also has a lot to say about carding. He founded the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition in 2000 after gaining a reputation as a passionate critic of Toronto police.

“You aren’t engaging with someone who you’re threatening. And that’s what police are doing when they’re carding,” said Sewell.

“If you’re constantly carded by police and treated as if you’re a criminal, you’re going to feel as if you don’t belong in society,” he said. “That’s not a good thing for police to be doing to people.”

The Ontario government recently announced plans to rein in carding, but under the new legislation, police are not required to provide receipts detailing their interaction, nor are they required to dismantle their database of information.

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Crime, Global Affairs, Published Articles

NatPo journalist tells of exclusive access to Anonymous hacker during talk at Humber Lakeshore campus

Jeremy Appel and Charlotte Morritt-Jacobs
Originally published in Humber Et Cetera

On an otherwise regular day, Canadian journalist Adrian Humphreys came across a bombshell of a story.

“I was reading federal court decisions on a slow news day and there was a small, short decision that had a couple of red-flag words. One was (that) it was an asylum case (with) Americans and the other was a reference to a claim of torture,” said the National Post reporter.

Humphreys came to Humber’s Lakeshore campus Tuesday to tell students the story of Matt DeHart, an American hacker with the group Anonymous, who requested asylum in Canada after reportedly being tortured and accused of possessing child pornography.

Humphreys, an experienced crime reporter, navigated a labyrinth of criminal and political intrigue to produce the longest series of reports the National Post has ever published.

“It involved a naturally secretive world… child pornographers, Anonymous, spy agencies, the FBI and the CIA,” he said.

A colleague told Humphreys that DeHart was just some crazy person and that he shouldn’t waste his time, but Humphreys was ready to devote considerable effort to him. Eight months and 15,000 words later, he had his story.

Humphreys first realized he was onto something substantial when he received some FBI documents that confirmed DeHart had been interrogated.

“The F302, the file code number, (was prefixed) with the FBI’s code for an espionage investigation. It didn’t start with the code for child pornography or even a computer crime investigation,” said Humphreys.

The next step was to interview DeHart in Toronto, where he was under house arrest and forbidden from accessing a computer. This proved somewhat challenging, as DeHart was not prepared to open up to just any stranger.

Humphreys had “to confirm absolutely everything just to assess his credibility,” even something as seemingly insignificant as what high school he went to.

“We had a nice understanding that neither of us trusted each other,” he joked.

DeHart was arrested by Canadian Border Services Agency and Toronto police in April last year. He attempted suicide twice in jail.

Last week, DeHart pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography in exchange for a reduced sentence of seven-and-a-half years in prison, which Humphreys describes as a “huge incentive to plead guilty.”

The reporter said that whether DeHart was indeed in possession of child pornography is immaterial.

“There’s enough questions and concern about how he was investigated, what the evidence that was used against him and the timing of the prosecution to warrant (suspicion),” Humphreys said.

Throughout this whole ordeal, Humphreys took what some would regard as excessive precautions in keeping his correspondence private.

“I was afraid of my e-mail being hacked. I was afraid of being doxed or lampooned or pranked by Anonymous…. This story really pushed me into becoming aware of the need to be prepared to talk in encrypted channels with people electronically,” he said.

“The text of this story must trip every single trigger of the NSA digital screen.”

The five-part series is available to read online at http://news.nationalpost.com/matt-dehart-claims-hes-wanted-for-working-with-anonymous.

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Published Articles

Yes to Syrian refugees, but we must do it responsibly

Jeremy Appel
Originally published in Humber Et Cetera

The Paris attacks unleashed a torrent of anti-refugee sentiment that gives ISIS exactly what it wants – keeping Syrians and Iraqis ensnared in their cage.

“The Paris massacre gives us a horrifying taste of the unending and vicious violence that has killed 250,000 Syrians, displaced 10 million more and sent four million fleeing for their lives into Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey,” said Michael Molloy, a political scientist from the University of Ottawa who helped coordinate the resettlement of 60,000 Indochinese refugees between 1979 and 1980.

“These refugees are victims of the same evil visited on our French cousins. We must not lose sight of this fact,” he wrote in the Globe and Mail.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should be applauded for remaining firm in his commitment to resettle 25,000 refugees, despite opposition. But his pledge to do so by year-end, logistics be damned, plays into the hands of those who don’t want any refugees settled here at all.

Trudeau promised to resettle 25,000 refugees over the span of 10 weeks. Voters will forgive him if he breaks this pledge by simply committing to a plan for their resettlement within his initial deadline.

It’s not a matter of security, as right-wingers like Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall make it out to be. As Ishaan Tharoor of the Washington Post pointed out, each identified suspect of the Paris terror was an EU national. Similarly, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the Parliament Hill shooter of 2014, was a Canadian national.

Even if there are killers lurking in refugee camps across the Middle East, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the main agency responsible for resettling refugees, has an extensive background check protocol to determine suitability.

Short of turning Canada into a police state, there isn’t much anyone can do to prevent immigrants or “old stock Canadians” alike from engaging in senseless violence.

The real issue with Trudeau’s resettlement plan is one of being able to provide sufficiently for all these refugees.

“It can be done. That’s not the issue. But we’ve got wait-lists for language classes, for example, of six to 10 months in certain cities. We don’t have trauma support programs in place,” Chris Friesen of Canadian Immigration Settlement Services told the CBC.

“Reconsider the timeframe, keep the number, but do it over to 2016 … Providing more time for this large resettlement movement will lead to better settlement outcomes,” Friesen said.

Mario Calla of Lifeline Syria, the main organization facilitating the intake of Syrian refugees, is naturally sympathetic to Trudeau’s goal, but agrees with Friesen that the timeframe should be extended.

“It’s still a massive movement. Don’t forget: even the processing takes time. There are security checks, medical and criminal checks,” he said, indicating that a few extra months would make his job much less daunting.

Lifeline Syria’s project manager Alexandra Kotyk said the organization has been overwhelmed by calls of support. Even if many people are wary of Trudeau’s self-imposed deadline, they are still broadly supportive of bringing refugees to Canada.

Compare that with the U.S., where 26 governors have said they will refuse to permit the resettlement of any Syrian refugees in their state. They’re all Republican.

Meanwhile, the GOP presidential candidates are trying to outdo each other in exploiting the Paris tragedy to whip up the most anti-Muslim hysteria.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz said the U.S. should only allow Christian refugees, because “there is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.” Ditto Jeb Bush.

Frontrunner Donald Trump holds similar views on Syrian refugees as he does on illegal Mexican immigrants – send ‘em back to where they came from. He doesn’t appear to be suffering in the polls for either stance.

On the other hand, even the Conservatives in Canada haven’t taken such an extreme view on the subject. They want to slow the process down, or reduce the numbers, but no one denies the significance of the cause.

Canada can and should set an example for the rest of the world on refugee intake, as we did in the past for Vietnamese, Ugandan and Kosovar migrants. But we should do so in a responsible way. One that doesn’t play into the kneejerk xenophobia on prominent display south of the border.

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