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News brief: Nova Scotia NDP not happy with street checks analysis

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Recently 25 African Nova Scotian organizations called for an immediate halt of police street checks. The Nova Scotia NDP continues to stop short of calling for such a moratorium, but is critical of the data analysis initiated by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

Police street checks, or carding, remains a highly controversial practice in Halifax, and indeed everywhere in Nova Scotia where Black and other racialized people are disproportionately stopped and questioned by police.

When last winter it became known that Black people in Halifax are three times more likely to be subjected to police street checks than white people, the African Nova Scotian community reacted in anger.  

Photo Torontoist

A meeting earlier this year at the North End library between African Nova Scotians and J.M. Blais, chief of the Halifax Regional Police, left no doubt what people on the receiving end think of this racist practice.  

Also at that time prominent African Nova Scotians such as Robert Wright, Lanna MacLean and Shawna Hoyte called for an immediate moratorium on police street checks.

After many months of delays an analysis of carding data has finally been initiated, sponsored by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. Nobody knows yet when that exercise will be completed.

Meanwhile, just last month a coalition of 25 African Nova Scotian organizations once again demanded that street checks be halted immediately, regardless of the analysis that is taking place.

For that story we talked with Godfred Chongatera, one of the spokespeople for the African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent Coalition.

“If you get stopped by police again and again, and you happen to be a part of a group who happen to be Black people in their own communities, without any wrongdoing, what do we call that? I call that racial profiling,” Chongatera told the Nova Scotia Advocate.

So far the white response has been muted.

Only Solidarity Halifax, a membership-based organization of anti-capitalist political activists, has joined the call for an immediate moratorium in a letter writing campaign it launched in July.    

Prior to last year’s election the Nova Scotia NDP endorsed the analytical approach championed by Halifax Council and the Human Rights Commission. A moratorium was not part of its platform.

Thinking that perhaps the recent demands by 25 African Nova Scotian organizations would have caused a further shift towards a call for a moratorium, we recently approached the caucus for an update.

If there is such a shift in the NDP’s stance, it is pretty minute. The response, by justice critic Claudia Chender, stops short of calling for a moratorium.

“Community organizations have clearly identified flaws with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission’s approach to addressing the issue of police street checks in our province,” writes Chender.

“The NDP Caucus supports the need for urgent action to address issues of racism that have been raised in the report of the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, including recommendation #61 on access to justice.

“This recommendation requires governments to address all instances of racial profiling and discrimination in the justice system, including carding, over-representation of Black and Indigenous people in prison, and the lack of racial data being gathered by government bodies. Action on these issues must come from all three levels of government, and we are committed to continue raising these issues in the provincial legislature.”

Rectification: The earlier headline for this story, Nova Scotia NDP still not calling for an immediate moratorium on police street checks, was too absolute and not fully reflective of the NDP response as quoted in full in the story. We will keep you posted on further developments.   

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