'Some time' needed before N.S. RCMP to decide on street check apology: Gray
Published Wednesday, November 27, 2019 2:33PM AST Last Updated Wednesday, November 27, 2019 9:30PM AST
HALIFAX -- The top Mountie in Nova Scotia says the RCMP needs more time and a national review of street checks before deciding on whether to apologize to the black community for using the practice.
"Given the scope of the RCMP being the federal and provincial police, careful consideration is going to take some time in regards to the apology," said Chief Supt. Janis Gray in a telephone interview Wednesday.
Halifax's municipal police chief, Daniel Kinsella, has set Friday as the date for a formal apology to the black community for street checks, and to announce "meaningful action" to follow up.
However, Gray says her force -- which polices a number of Halifax suburbs -- is awaiting the results of a national review of street checks currently being carried out by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, which probes public complaints against the RCMP.
The Nova Scotia Mounties were included in criminologist Scot Wortley's report showing black people were five times more likely to be stopped by police in Halifax.
Wortley concluded this created a "disproportionate and negative" impact on minority communities.
In October, retired jurist Michael MacDonald provided the province with a legal analysis concluding the practice of stopping citizens to collect and record their personal information contravenes basic constitutional and common-law rights.
Attorney General Mark Furey announced the same day that the province will ban street checks.
Within weeks, Kinsella moved to announce the apology process by the Halifax Regional Police, framing it as part of a wider effort to rebuild trust with the black community.
But the RCMP says it has to follow a different process.
Commissioner Brenda Lucki must first see the results of the review launched in April 2018, Gray said. The probe's mandate is to consider if RCMP street check policies and training "are adequate, appropriate, sufficient and clear," and to determine how effectively the force has been in monitoring compliance, according to the commission's website.
A spokeswoman for the complaints commission said in an email that it's expected the review will be complete before the end of March 2020.
In a news release, Gray also says the Mounties recognize more must be done to "enhance public trust" between the federal police force and minorities, and points to education initiatives for officers as signs of progress in reducing racial bias in policing.
In addition, there are a number of recommendations from the Wortley report that are "pending," she said in the interview.
For example, a recommendation the force "engage with outside experts" to evaluate its programs to reduce racial bias in policing isn't complete, she said.
Vanessa Fells, the program co-ordinator of the African Nova Scotia Decade for People of African Descent Coalition, said in an interview that members of the black community are looking for an RCMP response to the coalition's call for a public apology.
"I can tell you it has not gone unnoticed by members of the coalition and by members of the African Nova Scotian community that the only apology so far forthcoming is from the Halifax Regional Police and not the RCMP and not the government," said Fells.
She said all three entities were all "involved in what happened in regards to street checks and how it affected the African Nova Scotian community, and the trauma it caused."
Fells said the community is looking for all of the parties to work together, and to invite a wide range of black community groups to have discussions on racial bias in policing.
She said the Halifax Regional Police has met with her group, but she hasn't attended meetings with the RCMP.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2019.