Halifax police learn about experiences of Black Nova Scotians in new training course

·3 min read
Halifax Regional Police says the new anti-Black racism training was developed in consultation with the Black community. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Halifax Regional Police says the new anti-Black racism training was developed in consultation with the Black community. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Rev. Lennett Anderson is sharing his experiences as a Black man as part of a new training program for Halifax police officers to combat systemic anti-Black racism in the force.

"If there's going to be a societal or a systemic shift to occur, they need to feel the disgust, the frustration, and be a part of the solution," Anderson told CBC Radio's Information Morning.

He's a senior pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Upper Hammonds Plains, an eighth-generation African Nova Scotian, and one of the facilitators of Halifax Regional Police's training course called Journey to Change.

During the course, he tells officers about the racial profiling that happens in grocery stores and the barriers his kids face in the education system.

"This is not a figment of my imagination, but these are our stories, and to really share the historic background so that they can understand," he said.

Other members of Nova Scotia's Black community also help facilitate the training, including Sen. Wanda Thomas Bernard, social workers Robin Wright and Lana MacLean, as well as Irvine Carvery with the Africville Genealogy Society.

Rev. Lennett Anderson is one of the facilitators of the training course, Journey to Change.
Rev. Lennett Anderson is one of the facilitators of the training course, Journey to Change. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

So far, the week-long course has been offered twice to a total of 45 members, according to police Chief Dan Kinsella. He said the goal is to train more than 500 officers, as well as supervisors, civilian staff and eventually volunteers.

There have long been calls for Halifax police to reckon with systemic anti-Black racism and implement meaningful change in the wake of a landmark report that found police officers were conducting street checks on Black people at a rate six times higher than white people.

In 2019, Kinsella apologized for the now outlawed practice, saying police have failed Black Nova Scotians too many times. The training builds on that apology, he said.

He called the course "transformational" for many of the officers who take part.

"It's really interesting and uplifting to see the changes in what the officers are learning and how they're internalizing it," he said. "From the beginning of the week to the end of the week, we see tremendous growth."

Two white police officers, who were recently found to have racially discriminated against a Black man in Halifax, will also take the training.

Gyasi Symonds filed a complaint with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission after constables Steve Logan and Pierre-Paul Cadieux followed him into his place of work to issue a jaywalking ticket in 2017.

"Those officers will be placed in the next course or a course immediately following that," Kinsella said.

Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella apologized in 2019 for years of police street checks that disproportionately targeted Black people.
Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella apologized in 2019 for years of police street checks that disproportionately targeted Black people.(Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

He said the plan is to offer the training four times a year, although COVID-19 has thrown a wrinkle into that schedule.

"We haven't been able to do that with COVID, but they will be given an opportunity to have the training and, you know, the hope is that we will get all of our people through," he said.

While Anderson knows one week of training isn't enough to create meaningful change overnight, he hopes it gives police officers a glimpse of the reality Black Nova Scotians face, and an understanding of just how deep-rooted anti-Black racism is in the province.

"I guess I want them to understand the communal trauma, and that we have witnessed marginalized, ostracized, racialized people being victimized over and over again," said Anderson.

"It's going to take all levels of government to give voice to this lived reality, and to be partners, to be allies and to confront the system or the structures that protect their privilege."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

<cite>(CBC)</cite>
(CBC)

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