KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – A legal aid lawyer believes that fines for walking in a park or failing to engage in social distancing may have been levied disproportionately against members of marginalized and racialized communities.
Halifax lawyer Josh Nodelman, who works for Nova Scotia Legal Aid, told the CBC’s Emma Smith that the clinic wants to hear from the hundreds of people who have been fined province-wide under the health protection and emergency management acts.
“Frankly, I am deeply concerned about the first few people to whom I’ve spoken,” Nodelman told the CBC. “There was always a concern among several of the lawyers at Legal Aid that this enforcement was going to come down disproportionately heavily on people in marginalized situations.”
“I can’t say whether that represents all of the tickets being given out or just to people who sort of have been finding us at Legal Aid so far, but I will say there’s an awareness of a number of lawyers across Legal Aid that this is an issue we’re keeping an eye on.”
Justice Minister Mark Furey, a former member of the RCMP, told the CBC that “there’s been no evidence presented” that enforcement is targeting certain groups of people.
This kind of denial was also Furey’s stance when the Black community in HRM reported being targeted by Halifax police. What Wortley’s street check report showed is that police bias against Black people in Halifax is very much for real.
Where’s the evidence, Furey asks. Well, the minister should take a look in the mirror. He is the reason that evidence has not been collected.
One of the recommendations Dr. Wortley issued over a year ago was that police record information on all stops of civilians, including the race of the person involved, and whether the stop was consensual.
As we learned from a Freedom of Information request that recommendation is one of the many that has not been touched.
This is something Furey can easily fix. He should do as Wortley recommends and order police to collect race-based information on all its interactions with citizens.
Then we will know for sure.
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