N.S. justice minister pledges to close street checks 'loophole'

·2 min read
A 2019 report found that Black Nova Scotians were six times more likely to be street checked than white people. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
A 2019 report found that Black Nova Scotians were six times more likely to be street checked than white people. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotia's minister of justice says he plans to close a legal "loophole" that could allow police to continue to do street checks under the guise of "suspicious activity."

Street checks were banned in the province following the 2019 release of the Wortley report, which found that Black Nova Scotians were six times more likely to be street checked than white people.

But advocates have complained that police are still permitted to stop people and gather information based on an officer's objective determination of "suspicious activity."

The recent mandate letter issued by Premier Tim Houston to Brad Johns, who was named minister of justice following the PC provincial election win last month, includes the implementation of the Wortley report recommendations and ensuring the end of street checks.

"It's also to address the issue of the loophole," said Johns. "It is still there, I'm not quite sure why it wasn't addressed previously."

Street checks allowed police officers to document information about a person they believe could be of significance to a future investigation, and record details such as their ethnicity, gender, age and location.

Anjuli Patil/CBC
Anjuli Patil/CBC

Johns noted that only 14 of 29 recommendations proposed by the Wortley report have been completed. A two-year update on the followup work on the report was provided to the Halifax police commission on Monday.

Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella told the commission that some recommendations have been completed, some, such as training, are ongoing, while others have to be done in collaboration with either the RCMP or the Department of Justice.

"Clearly, the collection of race-based data should be consistent across the province," said Kinsella. "So lots of work to do there."

The chairman of the police commission, Coun. Lindell Smith, said he plans to write to the new justice minister to talk about next steps.

"I don't know exactly what the timeline is," said Smith. "But I want to make sure that the initiatives that have started are completed in a timely fashion."

Smith also noted that police commission meetings will continue to get regular updates on the progress of the Wortley report recommendations.

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.

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