Province accepts recommendation to gather race-based information from police stops

·2 min read
Street checks were banned in Nova Scotia in 2019. (Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit)
Street checks were banned in Nova Scotia in 2019. (Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit)

Police across the province might soon be collecting race-based data at routine police stops, part of a package of recommendations based on a report from three years ago that found Black people in Halifax are disproportionately targeted by street checks.

This recommendation follows the release in 2019 of the Wortley report, which included 53 recommendations related to a street check ban, the regulation of street checks, data collection on police stops and improving police-community relations.

"There is no place for racism in our justice system," Attorney General Brad Johns said in a news release Thursday.

"These recommendations will guide the development of a data collection model for police stops that will help ensure police practices and interactions are free from discrimination."

Street checks are defined in the Wortley report as an instance when an officer interacts with or observes someone and then records personal or identifying information into a database.

Street checks banned in 2019

Street checks were banned in Nova Scotia on Oct. 18, 2019.

Vanessa Fells, director of operations with the African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent coalition, said the group is pleased to see the Department of Justice working with the African Nova Scotian community to address the recommendations on street checks.

"We hope this report will be mandated provincially and will allow for annual updates to the public on the interpretation of this data," Fells said in the release.

"It is our belief that transparency in data collection will allow for police accountability, policy changes in the current justice system and — with the development of the African Nova Scotian Justice Plan — create a space where all African Nova Scotians will feel safe when interacting with law enforcement."

The Wortley report research committee released its report Thursday.

The team dedicated to examining the findings of the Wortley Report is made up of representatives from police, African Nova Scotian community members as well as other government regulated bodies like the Justice Department and the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. It was led by Timothy Bryan, a University of Toronto professor with research expertise in criminal justice reform.

A goal to improve interactions

It recommends that the justice minister mandate the collection of race-based data by police, stating that the information gathered at police stops will identify over-representation when it occurs and help police improve interactions with African Nova Scotian, Indigenous and other racialized Nova Scotians. That would allow for the evaluation of policies and practices and improve transparency and accountability.

Next steps include reviewing the ways police collect data across the province and working with community and police to develop a standardized race-based data collection model.

As yet, there is no confirmation as to when police will actively start collecting race-based data.