How to deal with police negligence and abuse: Advocating for your rights
By: Callum Denault
Published on: February 06 2023
For the most part, police officers and other law enforcement agents work hard to make sure they are serving and protecting people who live in Canada. However, Canada also has an unfortunate history of police brutality and systemic racism in how its law enforcement treats minority groups. These issues are still affecting people to this day.
This article has advice on how to safely get through encounters with police officers, and make sure legal institutions are protecting your rights.
What to do when police stop you while walking, driving, or cycling
British Labour MP Dawn Butler was stopped by police when she was riding in a car with a friend of hers. In The Guardian, Butler wrote that she believes her and her friend—who is a black man—were pulled over because of racial profiling.
“The police admitted they did not exercise their powers based on any intelligence or reasonable suspicion (unless being from North Yorkshire is now suddenly deemed suspicious),” wrote Butler. “Therefore, my only conclusion is that it was due to racial profiling.”
Racial profiling is—according to the American Civil Liberties Union—a discriminatory practice where law enforcement officers target people and suspect them of being criminal based on their race, ethnicity, religion, or nationality. Profiling can affect people of black, Asian, and/or Indigenous heritage, as well as those with darker skin tones.
PBS gives 10 rules of survival for getting through a police traffic stop safely.
“1. Be polite and respectful when stopped by the police. Keep your mouth closed.
2. Remember that your goal is to get home safely. If you feel that your rights have been violated, you and your parents have the right to file a formal complaint with your local police jurisdiction.
3. Don’t, under any circumstance, get into an argument with the police.
4. Always remember that anything you say or do can be used against you in court.
5. Keep your hands in plain sight and make sure the police can see your hands at all times.
6. Avoid physical contact with the police. No sudden movements, and keep hands out of your pockets.
7. Do not run, even if you are afraid of the police.
8. Even if you believe that you are innocent, do not resist arrest.
9. Don’t make any statements about the incident until you are able to meet with a lawyer or public defender.
10. Stay calm and remain in control. Watch your words, body language, and emotions.”
Police generally will only stop you if they either see you committing a crime, suspect you have committed a crime, or if you are driving. As Joshua Rogola—a criminal defence lawyer in Winnipeg, Man.—writes, unless the police are arresting or detaining you, you are free to go. You can leave by simply and politely, asking the officer if you are being arrested or detained. If they say no, you can leave. If they say you are being arrested or detained, you can ask why. It it is your right to be informed why you are being held by police.
An officer may ask you to show them your driver’s license, car registration, and insurance, which you are required to do by law. When asked, tell them you are reaching for the document, especially if you keep it in your car’s glove compartment.
What to do when the police won’t help you
If the police aren’t helping, there are ways you can make sure your needs are known and met. One way is by going over the heads of police and contacting your local court, sue in civil court, or let the public know what is happening to you through social media and contacting news publishers.
You can also call your local city’s services through 311 if you need help finding ways to deal with the problems you are facing. If no other authorities are helping you deal with a serious issue, you can also contact your local Member of Parliament (MP) for help. The Canadian Council for Refugees also has advice on how to contact your local MP in an effective way.
How to avoid getting deported and respond to removal orders
According to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), there are three types of Removal Orders that could make someone have to leave Canada. With a Departure Order, you have to leave Canada within 30 days of the order taking effect, but can apply to come back afterwards. Under an Exclusion Order, you are barred from entering Canada for a whole year, or five years if you were believed to have misrepresented yourself. Under a Deportation Order, you are permanently banned from entering Canada unless you apply for an Authorization to Return to Canada (ARC).
In the case of any Removal Order, the Canadian government recommends newcomers apply for an ARC if they wish to return, and also suggests more information on this website.
The CBSA also recommends, “If you have questions about your Removal Order you are encouraged to call 1-833-995-0002, Monday to Friday between 8:00 am to 4:00 pm AST, to speak to an officer who can answer your case-specific questions.”
The best way to avoid being deported is to not give the government a reason to deport you. Illegal immigration is a big, overarching reason behind deportation. People may be asked to leave Canada if they came here on a temporary visa and stayed after it expired, or if they are found to have entered Canada despite being considered an inadmissible person. Security issues, health issues, criminality, financial controls, and misrepresentation are other common reasons behind deportation.
In order to fight a Removal Order, you should first request the immigration officers to defer the order. Make sure you have a strong reason for making this request, such as waiting for an application for permanent residency, or circumstances involving your health or education. Other good reasons include pregnancy or having filed a Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds application which is still being processed.