KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Last night about 25 members of the African Nova Scotian community gathered at the Cornwallis Street Baptist Church hall to once again talk about carding, or police street checks as we call the practice in Nova Scotia.
For privacy reasons no recordings or cameras were allowed at the meeting. I will refrain from identifying people who attended the meeting for that same reason.
The overall consensus: Halifax police behaviour is often racist, the practice of carding itself is racist, and the community is tired of having to tell white people this over and over without anything ever substantially changing for the better.
The meeting was called by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. The Commission is tasked with the analysis of police street checks by the City of Halifax, after a Freedom of Information request early this year revealed that Black people are three times more likely than white people to be subjected to carding. Dr. Wortley, the Ontario sociologist hired to lead the study, was also in attendance.
The meeting was reminiscent of an earlier community meeting at the North End library, with Halifax Regional Police chief Jean-Michel Blais in attendance. The stories were the same, and the anger was the same.
Random stops for no earthly reason, police refusing to explain why a person is being stopped, rude and intimidating cops throwing their weight around, story after story after story.
Routine traffic stops, and people immediately end up out of their car, hands on the roof, with the officer’s hand resting on his gun. The embarrassment when colleagues and community members get to witness that.
We have been singled out for generations, we have told these stories thousands of times, what makes this exercise any different than the ones before, people asked.
And why doesn’t anybody in the force speak out when they witness these things? Why doesn’t the chief step in and confront these cops, make clear that this behaviour isn’t tolerated?
People don’t call the police even in an emergency because they don’t feel safe.
Dr. Wortley explained that the project he leads will go far beyond the simple data analysis that Chief Blais has said this is all about. Blais has frequently suggested that somehow the disproportionate number of stops of African Nova Scotians can be explained away by something other than systemic racism.
Wortley assured the attendees of last night’s meeting that this is not what he believes, and that he got their message loud and clear.
Similarly, Human Rights Commission lawyer Kymberly Franklin, who moderated the meeting, explained why the study was needed. “Whether we go to court, to the Chief, or to the Police Commissioners, we need this expert proof,” she said. “ If we decide to go to litigation we can’t do that without ammunition and evidence.”
However, the issue of carding and police bias and racism is a political issue. It is only because municipal, provincial and even federal politicians refuse to do what we hired them for that this lengthy analysis with uncertain outcomes is even taking place.
There is no way that our politicians don’t know about the kind of police treatment members of the African Nova Scotian community are subjected to on a daily basis. Police chief Blais must know as well.
That they don’t act upon that knowledge without delay, but call for an analysis instead, is shameful, That white Nova Scotians allow this to happen is just awful.
Two more community meetings have been scheduled: Tuesday November 7th at 7 PM, at the Black Cultural Centre, and Thursday November 9th, at 7 PM, at the North Preston Community Centre.
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