Human Rights Commission finds Halifax police racially discriminated against Halifax man
Halifax Regional Police headquarters is seen on Gottingen Street on June 15, 2020. (Carl Pomeroy/CTV Atlantic)
HALIFAX -- Halifax Regional Municipality has been ordered to apologize, and pay $15,233 to a Halifax man, after the Human Rights Commission found police racially discriminated against him.
The decision stems from a 2017 complaint filed by Gyasi Symonds after two interactions with police, where Symonds -- who is Black -- alleged Halifax Regional Police discriminated against him by giving him a jaywalking ticket.
In a decision released on Wednesday, Board chair Benjamin Perryman found the allegation to be true.
On the morning of Jan. 24, 2017, Symonds jaywalked across Gottingen Street in Halifax from his place of employment to get a coffee.
During the hearing, Symonds acknowledged he illegally jaywalked across the street, but said it's common to do so on Gottingen St.
Symonds said he yielded to approaching vehicles while crossing, but the police constables involved, Paul Cadieux and Steve Logan disagreed, saying he did not.
According to hearing documents, the two officers caught up with him, and spoke with him about the dangers of jaywalking. Symonds testified that they "blocked the entrance" of the coffee shop, and gave him an unnecessary lecture.
Symonds then asked if he was free to go, and the officers said yes.
There is disagreement about what happened next.
Symonds testified he crossed the street at a nearby intersection and returned to work, but the officers said that he jaywalked again.
The documents say the two officers then "pursued" Symonds, showing up the building where he works, and asking the commissionaire at the front desk to help identify him.
When Symonds met the officers, they gave him a $410 ticket.
In the hearing, Symonds testified that four of his white colleagues jaywalked in front of him, but did not get tickets.
He went on to describe the day as "one of the worst" he has ever had at work. He says he felt targeted by police, and testified that he suffered professional embarrassment after they showed up to his workplace looking for him.
He added that the events had a lasting impact on him, and harmed his career advancement.
Carolyn Brodie, the commissionaire working at the front desk testified that it’s common for police to enter the building, but this event was out of the ordinary from her perspective.
She told the board the officers "entered as if there were a serious crime in progress."
In their testimony, the two officers, however, described the interaction as normal, and described Symonds as "rude and agitated." The constables testified that Symonds' race played no role in their decisions or demeanor.
As a result of the board’s findings, the Halifax Regional Municipality is ordered to pay Symonds $15,233 for "compensatory and general damages" within 30 days.
The municipality is also ordered to provide Symonds with a formal apology within three months.
In addition, both officers will have to undergo the "Journey to Change" racial bias course offered by the Halifax Regional Police.