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How street checks are creeping back as part of the COVID-19 pandemic

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Under the provincial state of emergency declared on March 22, police officers in Nova Scotia are authorized to enforce the closure of provincial parks, trails and tourist attractions.

However, police interactions are exceeding that authorization, and the form these interactions take are similar to police checks, which the Minister of Justice ordered stopped last year. 

The Premier during his daily briefing also asked that people restrict walks to their own neighborhoods, but that’s not part of the declaration.

This is what happened to a person out for a walk on one of the trails that remains open. The comments can be found on the public Facebook group of Run Nova Scotia.

According to the comment this person wasn’t the only one getting stopped and asked to show ID, “just to confirm that I lived nearby.”

However, that you refrain from going for a walk outside your own neighborhood at this stage is not part of the emergency declaration, it is merely a request. You’re not breaking any law as long as you stay out of prohibited areas.

One of Dr. Wortley’s recommendations in case the practice of street checks were to remain in place was that citizens be fully informed of their right to walk away. There’s nothing to suggest that happened here.

This is not a story about whether it sensible to go for walks around your own neighborhood only, it is a story about cops asking people for IDs without clarifying that you are not breaking any law and under no legal obligation to comply. 

Based on what the Black community has told us about street checks and police interactions, as confirmed by the Wortley report, I shudder to think what this new state of emergency may mean for racialized citizens, especially those who live in poor neighborhoods. 

See also: Statement on inclusive safety and health – Community responds to Nova Scotia declaration of COVID-19 state of emergency (updated)

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