Media release Racism

Public statement by the African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent Coalition (DPAD), on the Independent [Police] Street Checks Review

MARCH 27, 2019, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent (DPAD) Coalition

HALIFAX (KJIPUKTUK): The Street Check report released today has forcefully confirmed what African Nova Scotians have been saying for decades: police in this province have been carrying out a surveillance and information gathering regime that overwhelmingly targets African Nova Scotians and their communities. Racial profiling continues.

Members of the African Nova Scotian community first raised this issue with police and government officials in January 2017 after the first statistics were released. The Coalition recognizes with gratitude all of the African Nova Scotians who contributed by sharing their street check and other racial profiling experiences. We also remember all of those who have suffered in silence. We acknowledge the humiliation and indignity that accompanies such interactions with police and your resilience in making your voice heard and you giving us the strength to continue the fight for justice.

This report has strengthened the Coalition’s position that street checks are illegal and should be banned:

  • 1) There is no legal authority enabling police to undertake street checks;
  • 2) African Nova Scotians’ (and other Nova Scotians’) right to liberty is being infringed by unlawful state action, in violation of the legal rights afforded by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
  • 3) The practice is racially discriminatory, and a form of racial profiling against African Nova Scotians that contributes to overrepresentation in the criminal justice system. As such, Street checks violate the Charter guarantee to substantive equality under the law; and are human rights violations under the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act.
  • 4) Street checks are harmful. Street checks cause undue stress, fear, anxiety and trauma on Black people and African Nova Scotian communities, thereby further creating distrust of the police and the criminal justice system.

The ANSDPAD Coalition has begun to explore possible legal options.

The illegal practice of street checks is but one example of systemic (and sometimes individual) anti-Black racism within the criminal justice system that has plagued Nova Scotia since the time of slavery and segregation – through the jailing of Viola Desmond – and racial profiling of Kirk Johnson –and beyond.

Building on reports such as the Donald Marshall Jr. Commission, it is time for a major overhaul of policing and other criminal justice practices to ensure fair, legal and constitutional treatment of African Nova Scotians. We have the capacity to lead this work in partnership with government.

To that end, the following action must be taken – in a way that is led by and engages African Nova Scotians:

Street checks should be banned in Nova Scotia and appropriate safeguards be put on other types of police stops;

The Kirk Johnson decision be implemented such that police provide a “proposal for how information could be provided on the role of race in traffic stops by the Halifax Regional Police” as set out in paragraph 41 of that decision;

That the provincial government support the community-led development of an African Nova Scotian strategy. That strategy would include an African Nova Scotian Justice Institute to implement the following initiatives:

  • An African Nova Scotian policing strategy to review and monitor police policies and practice with input from national and local experts in order to eradicate anti- Black racism – whether conscious or unconscious;
  • A Human Rights Monitoring & Advocacy programme – that would support people in safely filing third party police complaints;
  • A Community Justice Legal Defense programme that would enable African Nova Scotians to defend against police abuses;
  • An African Nova Scotian Court Worker and Restorative Justice Program o An Incarceration Support/Reintegration Program
  • Forensic Assessment & Treatment services
  • Public Education/Youth Development/Prevention Programming

See also the ANSDPAD Coalition submission to Dr. Wortley dated, March 11, 2019. Lastly, we appreciate the work that has gone into preparing the report by Dr. Wortley.

Background:

In order to create the social conditions necessary for true equality in Nova Scotia, the ANSDPAD makes the following recommendations:

Recognize and engage with African Nova Scotians – as a distinct people who have made and continue to make profound economic, political, social, cultural and spiritual contributions to Nova Scotia and Canada;

Institute mandatory collection of disaggregated data identifying where disparities exist for African Nova Scotians in all sectors, including education, employment, health, the justice system and the child welfare system;

Address the over-representation of African Nova Scotian children in care;

Strengthen Africentric education curricula, and address discriminatory policies in education;

Address barriers an inequities for newer Canadians, immigrants, refugees and migrant workers;

Develop legislation to address environmental racism affecting African Nova Scotians;

Resolve outstanding land title issues affecting African Nova Scotian communities, recognizing the Mi’kmaq as the First Peoples;

Address inequities in access to health care and employment;

Work with African Nova Scotians provincially and African Canadians nationally to establish reparations commissions at various levels of government.

Contact: Robert Wright: wrightrs@ns.sympatico.ca Angela Simmonds: angela.simmonds@dal.ca Vanessa Fells: DPADprogramcoordinator@outlook.com

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