KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The chances that you will be arrested for marijuana possession in Halifax if you’re Black are disproportionately higher than if you’re white.
We know this because journalist Rachel Browne submitted Freedom of Information requests to 14 police departments across the country, and reported the results in a story published in Vice on April 18.
Responses by some police services contained so little data that no conclusions could be drawn. Other departments did not collect race-related data. But Halifax police was among the six jurisdictions that provided the requested data in full.
“Black people comprise 3.6 percent of Halifax’s population, yet they represented 15 percent of cannabis possession arrests in 2015, which had a total of 110 such arrests. In 2016, black people represented 24 percent of the cannabis possession arrests, even though the number of cannabis possession arrests dropped to 42,” writes Browne.
“There were 17 possession arrests made in Halifax from January to mid-July of 2017, 22 percent of which involved black men and women,” Browne reports.
The article references research that suggests that rate of cannabis use is equal among Black and white people.
There are striking similarities between these recent revelations and earlier data that found that African Nova Scotians are three times more likely to be carded in HRM compared to white Haligonians.
That’s not where these similarities end.
In both cases it took a journalist and a freedom of information request to get the information out. It doesn’t seem to be the kind of thing Halifax police worries about on its own.
And that is although Halifax police has a research coordinator on staff who supposedly spends much of his time peering at data.
“I’m not saying these numbers look good,” this research coordinator told VICE News in a phone call in 2017. “We just don’t know what the underlying cause of this disparity is.” That same research coordinator expressed similar puzzlement when the street check data first became known.
Meanwhile, repeated demands from many organizations and individuals within the Black community for an immediate moratorium on the practice of police street checks have fallen on deaf ears. Community meetings where African Nova Scotians spoke about overbearing and racist police behaviour are being ignored by most municipal and provincial politicians.
Now this. How long will white Nova Scotia allow this mess to fester?
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