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Carding not stopping anytime soon in Halifax

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission (NSHRC) will lead a narrow investigation into the practice of carding (or police street checks)  in Halifax. An expert will be hired to determine if discrimination actually occurs.

Meanwhile Black people will continue to be targeted.

The investigation is launched in response to a letter by several Black community members who are concerned that Black Nova Scotians are being racially profiled by police.

The first step will be the hiring of an independent investigator to better understand the statistics gathered to date.

The CBC reported at the time that the letter asked not only for an investigation, but also that police immediately halt street checks because the practice violates citizens’ individual rights under the constitution.

It doesn’t look like the investigation by the NSHRC will trigger any such end to the practice of carding.

“This is not a formal investigation, this is a collaboration,” Christine Hanson, CEO of the NSHRC told the Nova Scotia Advocate.

The scope of that investigation is whether discrimination occurs, she said.  

“What we determined was that there should be a review of the data by an independent expert`so that we understand what the issues are, and then we come together with the community and the HRM after that to talk about what comes next,” said Hansen.  

Hansen expects the data review to be concluded in July.

Hansen said that this approach was discussed with the authors of the letter and that “they were very pleased to hear that this is moving forward.”

I am pleased because without using an adversarial position we got the community together, the HRM. We all want the same thing,” said Hansen, ignoring that chief J.M.Blais is on record as unwilling to consider a stop to carding.

So isn’t it abundantly clear that racial profiling is taking place?

Hansen can’t say.

Certainly I hear at the Commission, and my staff hear a lot of anecdotal stories about whether or not there is racial profiling. I certainly don’t want to rule out that’s what we could find. It’s also possible that we are missing data that we need to collect,” Hansen explained.

The findings could lead to a broader discussion, beyond the scope of the mandate of the NSHRC, said Hansen.

After completion of the NSHRC investigation others will need to consider broader questions, Hansen explained.

“Is there an education piece, does HRM need to change its policies, do we need `to look at street checks much more broadly, including the RCMP, the department of Justice, public safety,” Hansen said.

Hansen also believes that although the discussion around carding is “more advanced” in Ontario, the less adversarial climate here in Halifax will be beneficial.

The approach was endorsed during today’s meeting of the Halifax Police Board of Commissioners without much discussion.

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3 Comments

  1. this is an excellent piece and reveals much about the NS Human Rights Commission — and it’s not good. The commission seems fearful of taking a stand or taking action. Across the country police ‘carding’ has been a major topic for civil liberties groups — and yet Hansen says it still must be corroborated.

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  2. what i am most concerned about with carding, is that it is long established law that canadians don’t have to carry identification and do not have to identify themselves to police unless there are reasonable and probably grounds for those police to think an offence has been committed. and yes, clothing such as hoodies , backpacks, sneakers or riding a bike have been ruled out as reasonable and probably grounds. however if you resist giving id wait and see what happens. i did it a few times when i was a lawyer and while then being arrest for obstruction–an offence that doesn’t exist in canada–they found my law society id in my wallet and stopped. so what happens to people who are not law society members? they get strip searched at the precinct.

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  3. Many jurisdictions have discontinued the practice of carding. They weighed its limited probative value, against the animosity it breeds, and realized it was a poor use of Police resources. For most Police it is, merely, a fishing expedition used against marginalized communities. At minimum, subjects shd be told they are NOT being detained and have the RIGHT to walk away and not cooperate (of course, this “right” is, severely, abbreviated, if you’re Black). Moreover, there are no safeguards on how the info is used or for how long, which raises myriad privacy concerns. No one in the Black community is clamoring for another “study” bc we know the reality of our lives and it is height of insult to allow this to defer any tangible change in policy. The Human Rights Comm is just being used to provide cover. It is an impotent arm of government with no real utility or application in the day to day lives of Black people. Once again, we are expected to go, hat in hand, to the very people that oppress us, begging that we be treated as human beings.

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