N.S. premier’s plans to reform justice system met with optimism, anger
HALIFAX -- A day after Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil apologized for systemic racism in the justice system, and announced plans to restructure public safety, his words are being met with both optimism and anger.
Some say his government left out the very group that has been in dialogue about issues related to systemic racism for years, and was responsible for ending the controversial practice of street checks.
Halifax social worker Robert Wright is among those questioning the premier's announcement.
"I'll confess that the last couple of days, I have been the angriest I have been in my memory,” said Wright.
He is a member of the African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent Coalition -- a coalition Wright says has been in constant dialogue with government and policing leaders about the need to address the problem of systemic racism in the African Nova Scotian community for more than three years.
"We have created an African Nova Scotian Justice Institute and we have proposed an African Nova Scotian policing strategy, and there has been crickets, relatively speaking, coming back from government on the initiatives that we have proposed,” he said.
Wright says they were caught off guard by McNeil’s apology for systemic racism and plan to restructure the justice system.
"I see you, I hear you, I believe you and I am sorry,” said McNeil on Tuesday.
"Those of us who have been most involved in that dialogue and correspondence over the last three years, the same dialogue and correspondence that saw an end to street checks, that saw the Human Rights Commission a study to acknowledge that street checks were illegal, right? None of us were involved in this announcement. None of us were informed that this announcement was going to take place,” said Wright.
The premier says a design team will create a restorative approach that will help transform public safety in the province.
Anti-violence advocate Quentrel Provo deals with racism on a daily basis and would like to see a fair and equal policing system.
"Just the treatment and how they view us and that we're not a threat. We're not treated as a threat. We're treated equally. That's one thing that I would want to change, that I'm treated equally, that I get a fair share, just like any other race,” said Provo.
Provo says change won’t happen overnight, but he is hopeful for a better future.
"I don't want to have that worry when my son's driving, you know, worried about him being pulled over and profiled. Or you know, if he's travelling to the U.S., worried about police brutality that can happen,” said Provo.
The president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association says Indigenous people face a number of obstacles in the justice system.
"Right from being arrested to going to court, there are so many different barriers that our people face. Whether it be a language barrier, a transportation barrier, whether it be how they are treated by police. You don't have to look any further than New Brunswick as to what happened with Chantel Moore, Rodney Levi and Brady Francis,” said Annie Bernard Daisley.
She was pleased to hear the premier’s apology and says it’s a big step toward reconciliation.
Bernard Daisley believes change is possible.
"We need more people from our own Indigenous society working in all levels of these areas, such as police. We need our own people to be police officers, we need own people to work in the judicial system, we need our own judges, we need our own lawyers,” she said.