After reading the Wortley report and hearing the immediate response of the Nova Scotia Minister of Justice, I feel compelled to say that Halifax and Nova Scotia needs to do the right thing and build a new relationship with our black community.
I am grateful to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission for engaging Dr. Scott Wortley in researching street checks in Halifax. I am also grateful to the African Nova Scotians who contributed their experiences, yet again.
Professor Wortley’s research findings are welcomed, disturbing, and not surprising, given what members of Halifax’s black community have been saying for too many years. The history of racism and systemic discrimination against African Nova Scotians is not new.
Professor Wortley’s report should be the kick in the pants that police and elected officials in Nova Scotia and Halifax need to make the necessary changes to bring fairness, respect, and dignity to our residents of African descent. We have been failing them and that must change.
We can no longer allow the present situation to continue. The over-surveillance of the black community clearly leads to the over-representation of black people in our justice system and in prisons and limits the opportunities of black males in particular.
I believe that the Nova Scotia Minister of Justice and the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners must place an immediate moratorium on street checks until Dr. Wortley’s recommendations have been considered. For me, the following conditions must be met:
-the lawfulness of street checks has been fully investigated;
-strict regulations have been developed that will severely limit street checks and remove racialized differences in future street check occurrences, with demographic documentation of all police stops and police-civilian interactions for future data analysis;
-historical street check data has been cleaned, with older, biased records removed, and access to the database restricted to police investigators only;
-new training has been provided to all police officers on cultural competency, implicit bias, racial profiling and the its effects on racialized communities; and
-there has been an engagement with the black community that puts in place a plan to improve relations between police and the black community.
Professor Wortley’s research found that street check data has little relationship to overall crime statistics, so temporarily halting its collection should have no detrimental effect on solving and preventing crime. Until we can ensure that any intelligence gathered by police is done in a manner that doesn’t disproportionately and negatively affect racialized communities, we should not be conducting street checks.
District 9 – Halifax West Armdale
I was both saddened and sickened when Legault’s CAQ government in Quebec tabled Bill 21 yesterday. This move is completely antithetical to what a modern, progressive Canada is today.
Although Quebecers have been debating a move in this direction for years, Bill 21, and its use of the Notwithstanding Clause is not consistent with a free and just society. I heard the Quebec justice minister interviewed where he indicated that he’s concerned about civil servants wearing religious symbols indoctrinating other citizens while carrying out the duties of the state. This kind of insidious racism and xenophobia cannot be unmet by other views from across Canada.
For the CAQ government to limit the opportunities of, and oppress, only some of their residents, simply because they practice a religion, is unconscionable. Using the Notwithstanding Clause is a recognition that they are trampling on the fundamental rights of Canadians.
I was looking forward to attending the 2019 conference of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities with municipal representatives from across our country. In light of the CAQ government’s move, I cannot contribute the economy of Quebec and tacitly support Bill 21.
I am requesting that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities postpone the 2019 Conference until it can be moved outside of the province of Quebec, or possibly to Montreal, where Mayor Valerie Plante, who announced her opposition to Bill 21, has provided a counterweight and a bright light in such a dark time. If moved to Montreal, perhaps, demonstrations by municipal delegates would be appropriate.
If the conference is not moved, I am asking that municipal delegates boycott the conference in solidarity with those whose rights are being trampled by the CAQ government.
District 9 – Halifax West Armdale