featured Racism

The white response to Halifax carding stats is a disgrace

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – African Nova Scotian social justice advocates are asking the Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) and the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission (NSHRC) to look into the legality of carding (locally known as street checks) by police.

Photo Toronto Star

“By definition street checks involve the police checking citizens without reasonable and probable grounds – or even reasonable suspicion – to believe that they have committed a criminal offence,” the letter argues.

“As such, police are checking people and recording information without legal authorization to do so – and street checks should cease immediately.”

That’s the colour-blind part of their argument, if you will.  

The group also rightly points out that the disproportionate extent to which African Nova Scotians are street checked is a form of racial profiling, and is yet another reason why the practice should be stopped immediately.     

In fact, carding is a form of racialized enforcement, the group writes.  

“Racial profiling in Nova Scotia is part of a national, North American and international phenomena rooted in the global conditions created by the enslavement and colonization of African peoples.”

We will have to wait and see how SIRT and the NSHRC will respond.

Meanwhile, white people in positions of power have come out in force to tell Black people that things aren’t all that bad, and that there is no hurry.

“I think it has to be looked at, but immediate is quite a reaction,” councillor and chair of the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners Steve Craig told the CBC when asked about the letter. “This is communications, information and understanding issue, It sometimes takes a lot of effort for people to understand.”

Mayor Savage has his mind made up, and street checks are here to stay, he tells CTV.

“I think that the street checks are a tool that the police use, so if there’s something wrong with the tool, fix the tool – you don’t throw it out of the toolbox,” he said. “I think we take this very seriously. I mean, this should be a red flag for people to have a look at it.”

Halifax police chief Jean-Michel Blais doesn’t even bother with the argument part. No, aint going to happen, he tells reporter Jacob Boon of the Coast.  

“I don’t think so, at this point,” answered chief Jean-Michel Blais when asked about a moratorium. “We will continue to talk to people. This is a very important part of our police work.”

This from the same police department that earlier was ordered by the NSHRC to keep race statistics after it was found to have engaged in racial profiling in the Kirk Johnson case. And did not bother examining these stats for eleven years, as the letter points out.

“I don’t think anyone wants the politicians to reach across to tell our police enforcement this is what you can do or not do today. ” premier Stephen McNeil, who also said he was “startled” by the findings, told the CBC.

Actually, telling the police what to do is exactly what politicians are supposed to do in cases like these.

In Ontario, where they call police checks by their proper name, carding has been severely constrained. This was a result of politicians telling the police what to do. It didn’t go far enough, but it’s a lot better than totally unregulated Nova Scotia.  

Patronizing responses, suggesting there is no hurry and concerns are misplaced, ignore the lived experience of African Nova Scotians and the long and sad history of racism in Nova Scotia. It’s the last thing we need from people in power.

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