Nova Scotia takes interim steps as ban on police street checks considered
Keith Doucette, THE CANADIAN PRESS
Published Thursday, March 28, 2019 4:28PM ADT
Last Updated Friday, March 29, 2019 8:07AM ADT
HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia's justice minister is ordering police across the province to immediately stop using street checks as part of a quota system or performance measurement tool.
Mark Furey's directive Thursday came a day after an independent report found African Nova Scotians in the Halifax area were more than five times more likely to be stopped by police.
The report, by University of Toronto criminology professor Scot Wortley and commissioned by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, said those street checks have had a "disproportionate and negative" impact on the black community.
"The numbers I have seen in the Wortley report are alarming and quite frankly this is unacceptable," said Furey.
Furey called the directive an "appropriate first step" as he continues to review the 180-page report, and as the NDP and people in the local community have called for an immediate moratorium on the practice until an overall decision is made.
When asked why no moratorium, Furey said he doesn't want to drive the practice underground in the meantime.
"A ban may be symbolic, but there is a risk of these behaviours continuing and that roadside interaction not changing," he said. "I believe these first steps and further work and discussions around the data are going to be critical in addressing this situation."
The Wortley report examined 12 years of data from Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP.
It found street check rates in Halifax were among the highest in Canada, second only to Toronto.
Furey, an ex-RCMP officer, said although he's not aware of any police forces using checks formally as performance evaluators, it does happen.
"I come from that environment, I know exactly what they (officers) are experiencing. There is an expectation of performance and there has always been formal or informal a number attached to performance, whether it's numbers of speeding tickets or numbers of street checks."
Wortley's report found that although African Nova Scotians make up only 3.6 per cent of the population, they were subjected to 19.2 per cent of street checks.
The figures revealed that while black women were three times more likely to be stopped, black men were 9.2 times more likely to appear in Halifax street check statistics.
NDP house leader Claudia Chender said she would have liked to have seen an immediate moratorium as part of an important government signal to African Nova Scotians and to police.
"We need action and the signal is almost as important as the content," said Chender. "We need something to be done today and this (a moratorium) is something that can be done today."