Halifax police attend annual church service to end racism
Published Sunday, March 19, 2017 6:53PM ADT
A historic downtown church in Halifax welcomed members of the local policing community on Sunday to share in a service dedicated to end racism.
The service is held every year at the Cornwallis Street Baptist Church on United Nation's International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
This year's theme was racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration.
"Racial discrimination has not been eliminated and we are all called to confront and to address this issue individually and collectively,” said senior pastor Rhonda Britton.
The UN describes racial and ethnic profiling as "a reliance by law enforcement, security and border control personnel on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin as a basis for subjecting persons to detailed searches, identity checks and investigations.”
It’s a concern for many living in Halifax. Statistics released in January show black people are disproportionately singled out by police for street checks.
"The community is feeling tensions feeling like they aren't being heard or understood when it comes to the oppression that they feel in racial profiling because of the disproportionate number of African Nova Scotians being street checked."
Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais was on the hot seat on Thursday over pointed questions about street checks.
"Sometimes you need to bring to a head the contentious issues out there in order to solve them instead of letting them fester under the surface," said Chief Blais.
On Sunday as he read a proclamation on behalf of the police force to bring an end to racism, the chief was heckled. He carried on, and by the end of his speech was given an ovation.
Lisa Dennis said she was touched by his message to his son about the importance of acceptance.
"The way he got his son involved, look at the crowd look at us and see us a people it was a beautiful. I was crying. It was wonderful,” Dennis said.
By opening the door to the police community, Dennis says it also opened up a conversation.
"Together, we can eliminate racism," said Dennis.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Marie Adsett.