Nova Scotia places moratorium on random street checks after community backlash

Nova Scotia places moratorium on random street checks after community backlash

Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey announced Tuesday the province is putting a moratorium on random street checks while the department works toward regulating the practice.

The move comes after weeks of pressure from the community.

An independent report released last month found that black people were street checked at a rate six times higher than white people in Halifax.

The 180-page report by Scot Wortley, a University of Toronto criminology professor, found the practice of random street checks has a disproportionate and negative impact on the black community, contributing to the criminalization of black youth.

Many in the community have been calling for a total ban on street checks, which was one of two options presented in Wortley's report. The department has chosen Wortley's other recommendation of suspending the practice while they develop regulations. 

"Random stops, arbitrary stops because of the colour of one's skin must cease," Furey told reporters. 

"We need to address the fear and mistrust that street checks have caused for many African Nova Scotians and in their communities. And public trust in policing we know is essential."

The moratorium will immediately suspend the use of random street checks of pedestrians and passengers in vehicles until further notice.

"The moratorium protects people from street checks in public areas, such as parks, sidewalks or other places accessible to the public, provided there is no suspicious or illegal activity," the department's release said. 

Furey's directive adds that police activity, including traffic stops, cannot be done based on discrimination, including race.

The province's police officers will also receive training on interactions with the public, he said. 

He initially ordered police across the province to stop using the checks as part of a quota system in March.

Ontario street checks report reviewed

Furey said the department has reviewed Wortley's report and Ontario's Tulloch report, which found last year that street checks, or carding, have little to no value as a law enforcement tool.

But he maintained that street checks when used appropriately, are a valuable tool in policing.

Furey said he is convening a working group that will provide him with a proposed plan to create regulations for street checks. Members of the group will be police, the community, African Nova Scotian Affairs, the Department of Justice, the human rights commission and the Immigrant Settlement Association of Nova Scotia among others, he said.  

'We're going to have to keep pushing for a ban'

The moratorium is partially gratifying after the pressure the black community applied to the government, said activist and educator El Jones.

But she said it should have happened the moment the report came out.  

"What's unfortunate is that we're engaged in this kind of incremental process, people have to push and push and push and push to get every kind of concession. So it takes weeks of pushing to get a suspension," said Jones "Now we're going to have to keep pushing for a ban."

"It's unfortunate that that burden keeps falling on us rather than people in power just doing the right thing."

'I've listened to the community' 

Furey said he's expressed his disappointment in the findings of the Wortley report to people in the African Nova Scotian community.

"I've listened to the community. I've acknowledged and recognized the concerns they have advanced at this time and reflective of some 16 years and longer of these types of treatments.

"Those who I've engaged I believe have confidence that at least we're moving in the right direction, there's a lot more work to do."

Halifax Regional Police said they will immediately communicate the directive to officers.

"The disproportionately high representation of racialized communities in our street checks data is an issue we are committed to addressing," said acting chief Robin McNeil.

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