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