Media release Racism

Media release: Nova Scotia Policing Policy Working Group calls on Halifax Board of Police Commissioners to commit to public hearings on systemic racism and the future of policing

July 20, 2020. For immediate release

The Nova Scotia Policing Policy Working Group (“NS PPWG”) is a coalition of organizations and citizens concerned with advancing legislative and policy reforms relevant to policing in the province, with the ultimate aim of defunding the police. 

On July 14, 2020, NS PPWG steering committee member El Jones was asked by Halifax Board of Police Commissioners (“HBPC,” “the Board”) Chair Natalie Borden to lead a committee for the purpose of recommending a definition of “defunding the police.” 

In response, we proposed that we convene a committee to tender research and consultation on defunding the police in Halifax. We envision this process as being much broader than simply crafting a definition, as any definition that is not adequately supported by research and consultation will be of limited utility. 

This is far from being an abstract concern, especially in light of the last-minute addition to the agenda for the Board’s meeting on July 9, 2020: a motion to adopt a definition of “defunding the police” that would have included “police performing policing functions.” This illogical and circular definition was concerning to those of us calling for a critical examination of where the public money devoted to police might be better spent to keep our communities safe and well. Given that it was billed as a “staff motion,” it also remains unclear who drafted the definition, raising significant accountability concerns. 

The process that we have proposed to the HBPC includes the following: 

(1) compiling a report on the current research, public debates, and practices in municipalities across Canada and in the United States in respect of defunding the police; (

2) engaging in a public consultation process together with the Board similar to those which have taken place in Edmonton and Toronto, where community members, groups, and non-profits are involved in sharing proposals aimed at reforming police practices, improving police accountability, and redistributing funds to civilian-led social services, including in the areas of housing, mental health, addictions, and employment support;

(3) redeveloping the process through which the HRP annual budget is crafted, so as to allow for greater openness and transparency, as well as significantly more public participation; and

(4) presenting our findings in a public format to the Board and to HRM Regional Council in order to allow for meaningful engagement with the findings from our research and consultation 

This public process will allow us to engage the work of experts, as well as to include public input from across the municipality, as we move forward with this important work. For this reason, our participation in any committee that the Board is considering creating for this purpose is contingent on their acceptance of the process so proposed.