Nova Scotia to ban police street checks after jurist finds they are illegal
By Michael Tutton, THE CANADIAN PRESS
HALIFAX -- The Nova Scotia government will permanently ban police street checks, the province's justice minister said Friday after a retired judge issued a formal opinion that the practice is illegal.
Retired Justice Michael MacDonald's 108-page analysis concluded the practice of stopping of citizens to collect and record their personal information contravenes basic constitutional and common law rights.
In coming to his conclusion, the veteran jurist referred to findings by criminologist Scot Wortley this year showing black people were five times more likely to be stopped by police in Halifax, creating a "disproportionate and negative" impact on minority communities.
He also noted that Wortley's report "did not identify any concrete benefits to street checks."
Shortly after MacDonald's findings were released, Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey told reporters he plans to introduce regulations that will place a permanent ban on the practice.
After the Wortley report came out in March, Furey imposed a temporary moratorium on the practice.
However, groups representing black Nova Scotians have said non-white citizens were continuing to be stopped and asked for identification in instances where no crime was being investigated.
Furey said his decision to move towards a permanent ban was based on those concerns as well as MacDonald's opinion.
"The decision I've come to, based on a number of contributing factors, is we will move to take the moratorium to a permanent ban on street checks," he said.
The attorney general said he will send out a notice of his decision to law enforcement services around the province.
Halifax regional police have committed to eliminating data collected by police checks, and Furey said it will be "incumbent" on other police forces to do the same thing.
MacDonald was retained by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission to provide his opinion.
The former chief justice of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal concluded, "this practice is not authorized under statute, or at common law."
"In short, street checks are not reasonably necessary for the police to execute their duties, when balanced against the interference with individual liberty, and the disproportionate effects on black Nova Scotians."
MacDonald also noted in his report that the temporary moratorium didn't appear to have a negative effect on crime-fighting.
Halifax Police Chief Daniel Kinsella wasn't available for comment on Friday, but the day before MacDonald's decision he said the force's work on street checks is "ongoing."
"We have to make sure we always protect charter rights ... but on the other side of that we have to continue to do our job as police officers. That means intelligence-gathering, combating crime, and suppressing crime," he said Thursday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Oct. 18, 2019.