KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The Nova Scotia NDP continues to press for an immediate end to the racist practice of police street checks in Nova Scotia.
We have known about the discriminatory impact of street checks in Nova Scotia for a long time, and we have done nothing about it,” said MLA Susan Leblanc (NDP) during second reading for private member bill 36, the Police Street Checks Act.
“Consecutive governments have delayed taking action or ignored this issue, and that includes the NDP government. I am calling that out. Not to try to call out this government, or anyone in this house in particular, but to call us all out. We all bear responsibility and I want to challenge us to do better, and to act now,” Leblanc said.
The legislation calls for an immediate stop of the practice of street checks, the supposedly consensual interactions between police and citizens who have done nothing illegal. Police data shows that in HRM Black people are three times more likely to be stopped than white people.
The individual members bill was drafted in response to demands from many African Nova Scotian individuals and organizations.
The legislation also calls for the appointment of a panel that will hold consultations and recommend rules and regulations that will define how consensual interactions will be conducted in the future, and how collected information will be retained, if at all, at that time.
“We have no excuse why police street checks are continuing when we have known their harmful impacts for so long. We also know that they do nothing to prevent crime in our communities,” said Leblanc.
NDP MLA Claudia Chender also spoke in support during the bill’s second reading, focusing, among other things, on the risks associated with storing the information about individuals in an electronic database that can be accessed by all kinds of police organizations.
“We are most certainly not saying that police officers should not be in contact with the communities they serve. In an effort to build trust and work as efficient peace officers we are encouraging them to do exactly that. What is not necessary and can cause harm is to record that information in database,” Chender said.
Karla MacFarlane, who spoke on behalf of the Progressive Conservatives, expressed concern that the bill would take away tools from the police. Nonetheless, she urged the Liberals not to reject the bill just because it came from an opposition party.
But rejecting the bill that was exactly what Liberal MLA Rafah DiConstanza did, suggesting that the analysis by the Nova Scotia Human Right Commission must run its course, and even falsely insinuating that this analysis was undertaken at the request of prominent members of the African Nova Scotian community. In fact the letter she referred to asked for an immediate halt to street checks.
Without Liberal support the bill is unlikely to proceed.
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