KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – A petition to ban the racist practice of street checks completely and unreservedly in all of Nova Scotia very quickly gathered some 3,500 signatures, two of the petition’s organizers told the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners early this afternoon.
Nancy Hunter and Joanne Bealy, who initiated the petition, told the commissioners that the signatures were remarkably easy to collect. “People are exasperated and ashamed that a practice that has been shown time and again to be damaging still has not ended,” said Hunter.
Collecting 3,500 signatures in slightly over a month is an impressive accomplishment, even more so since the petition conforms with the rigid requirements of the Nova Scotia legislature, meaning it’s all done on paper, no easy online signing here.
You can download the petition here. Email Nancy Hunter (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more info, and to arrange a pick-up / mail back of the signatures you have gathered.
Also on the Board’s agenda was a proposal by acting Chief Robin McNeil of the Halifax Regional Police (HRP) about what to do with historical street check records collected between 2005 and 2019.
HRP intends to hold on to the records until the end of 2020, and authorized police officers will continue to access the data until then.
In passing McNeil mentioned that there is no retention schedule whatsoever associated with the database, which is a pretty amazing admission this day and age. We will need to address that once the moratorium is lifted, McNeil said.
Meanwhile, an open letter to Justice Minister Mark Furey by Nova Scotia Decade of the African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent (ANSDPAD) Coalition lists several demands that must be met for ANSDPAD to re-join talks about implementation of the Wortley report.
The group walked away from these talks when it became apparent that the practice of street checks would not be banned.
One of the demands in the group’s most recent letter is that street check data not be used at all.
In the open letter ANSDPAD also raises doubts about the extent to which the moratorium is actually adhered to by police.
“It is not clear, however, that the moratorium has resulted in any changes to police practice. For example, we know of at least two problematic stops of African Nova Scotians that happened within days of the announced moratorium,” the letter states.
The coalition also suggests that the way the moratorium directive is worded leaves cops plenty of wriggle room.
“ Perhaps more importantly, the language of the actual moratorium directive does not appear to curb street checks. Specifically, paragraph 4(b) of the directive says that the moratorium “does not apply… to police inquiries into suspicious activity…” In other words, police can continue to engage in street checks to inquire into suspicious activity even though such action is not authorized by Canadian law,” ANSDPAD writes.
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