Sunday, 19 May 2019
featured Racism

Raymond Sheppard: When will African Nova Scotians see justice in the courts and on the streets?

Photo taken at Springhill Institution by members of the Senate Committee on Human Rights.

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – On Tuesday February 26, 2019, the Public Prosecution Service of Nova Scotia introduced a provincial policy that protects Indigenous people in court. I believe this is a good and much needed initiative, but it should not stop there.

The public prosecution service must also take a new approach in dealing with African Nova Scotians who come before the criminal justice system. African Nova Scotians have lived in Nova Scotia for more than 500 years and have a unique history and culture.

There should be a provincial policy put in place that will affect all aspects of criminal cases involving African Nova Scotians, including the decision to prosecute, restorative justice, arraignment, bail and sentencing.

Equally important, a policing policy should be put in place that respects the rights and dignity of African Nova Scotians.

Although judges have spent years in the courtroom and in the practice of law, they still require cultural training/ethnicity education. The National Judicial Institute of Canada should deliver training programs for all federal, provincial and territorial judges as the institute is funded by all levels of government.

African Nova Scotians are unique in Nova Scotia. Meanwhile, equality and fairness do not always boil down to treating everyone exactly the same.

This may be the United Nations Decade for People of African Descent, but nonetheless a United Nations task force condemned the injustice and discrimination that African Nova Scotians continue to face.

See also: African Nova Scotian coalition doesn’t want UN report collecting dust on a shelf

In 1989, the Black United Front of Nova Scotia had standing at the Royal Commission on the Donald Marshall prosecution and Justice Alex Hickman, who lead the inquiry, acknowledged the historical mistreatment of African Nova Scotian within the criminal Justice system of Nova Scotia.

Given all this it is no wonder African Nova Scotians have little faith in this privileged system of justice that causes much damage and misery for African Nova Scotians.

Comparatively, the system certainly seems to work quite well for Caucasians with all their unearned privilege.

To verify this truth one only has to look at the unequal percentage of African Nova Scotians incarcerated in federal and provincial jails and prisons.

New street check statistics released late last year by Halifax Police Service indicates that African Nova Scotians are four times more likely to be stopped than whites. These practices are unfair, racist and unconstitutional to say the least. There are times when it is necessary for police to pull over a vehicle, but to do so based on race alone is not acceptable. Data show that there is a deliberate practice in place to target African Nova Scotians and based on the numbers alone, you can only conclude that there is racial bias in the system.

It is likely that these numbers in reality are even higher, especially on a provincial level. This racial disparity isn’t just limited to documented stops, but is also reflected in searches, tickets, arrests, license suspensions and seizures.

Whatever happened to probable cause? African Nova Scotians are once again judged by the color of our skin alone and not by their character.

I am sure there are those that would argue that this kind of racial discrimination in law enforcement and in criminal justice is a cost-effective way to fight crime, yet the evidence does not support this.

The world over, justice denied seems to be the plight of African people and their descendants.

In Canada, most times it seems like apartheid without the guns. It’s the same racist actions on a slightly lesser scale. Young persons of African descent are picked up and detained, property is confiscated, and African Nova Scotians are subjected to physical and psychological harassment by some of those who are supposed to serve and protect or are responsible for meting out justice.

The search for justice, as many have come to appreciate, is a most difficult undertaking if not a futile venture entirely. Countless millions of people have gone to their graves for merely trying to seek an audience with the blind lady and millions more have committed the most horrendous crimes against humanity supposedly in defence of her honor.

African Nova Scotians/Canadians are besieged with injustices. Any person whose sense of honesty is relatively intact will find no difficulty in admitting this truth. Our people have never been privy to the same considerations which are granted to other elements in this society,  African Nova Scotians/ Canadians have never be given due process and or equal opportunity.

African Nova Scotian and African Canadian children continue to be force-fed great doses of subtle and/or overt racist propaganda in the institutions of learning, while their own history is ignored. Governments ignore African Nova Scotian/ Canadian communities. Courts of law consistently reflect the bigotry and prejudice which weaves through the thinking of those persons who have been called “servants of justice.”

Regardless, African Nova Scotians and African Canadians will continue to be maligned as ingrates who demand too much and don’t know how well off they are.

African Nova Scotians and African Canadians, like others, have paid their dues to be Canadian, but still the quest for our God-given rights continues.

See also: Census 2016: African Nova Scotian poverty rates through the roof, unemployment numbers terrible

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One Comment

  1. I just finished reading this report via a link (2017) re United Nations General Assemply: Report of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on its Mission to Canada – this report should be mainstream but it isn’t.

    The Report’s statistical information of overt disadvantages identifying equity and equality has probably barely scratched the surface respecting adoption and implementation in Nova Scotia.

    https://nsadvocate.org/2017/10/02/african-nova-scotian-coalition-doesnt-want-un-report-collecting-dust-on-a-shelf/

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