The pair was stopped by two RCMP vehicles on Main Street. As one officer ordered Dean out of the car with his hands up, another pointed a C8 carbine rifle in his direction.
It took several terrifying and confused minutes before the officers explained that there had been a shooting reported in North Preston. Whether the Simmonds resemble a description of the perpetrators is unclear. Following the traumatic event, Dean filed a formal complaint against the RCMP this morning.
“There's a sense of urgency for change that has been called upon for so long,” said Vanessa Fells, the director of operations at the African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent. “It happens to so many people in our community, and yet there's so little change that has happened in decades and decades.”
This news follows this week’s announcement that the province will be putting $4.8 million towards the African Nova Scotian Justice Institute, an initiative run through ANSDPAD that aims to address systemic racism in the criminal justice system by helping Black Nova Scotians navigate their interactions with the law and to holding police forces accountable. July 4th’s events highlight the ANSJI’s importance, but Fells says more needs to happen. Change needs to take place within the RCMP and other police forces as well—external accountability isn’t enough, especially considering that racist practices in Halifax police street checks have long been known to exist.
“The interaction with RCMP police officers provides yet another example of the way Black people continue to be subjected to inhumane treatment and are regarded as dangerous, dishonest, guilty, criminals,” said Angela Simmonds in a press release sent out by ANSDPAD. The release said the Simmonds were "targeted for 'driving while Black' by RCMP."
This week Angela became the Liberal candidate for the Preston riding in the upcoming provincial election. The page about her on the Liberal Party's site notes that this year she "was named the Executive Director of the Land Titles Initiative in the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism where she works to address the legacy of systemic racism in historic African Nova Scotian communities." Also, she "was recently acknowledged as one of the Top 100 Most Accomplished African Canadian Black Women in Canada in 2020."
Over a year and a half ago, ANSDPAD proposed systemic change for law enforcement through an African Nova Scotian Policing Strategy, which would address the racism that exists within police forces. The organization shared its ideas with the RCMP as well as other police forces across the province. To date, no law enforcement agencies have shown interest in the proposal, and Fells doesn’t think that’ll change any time soon.
“I truly believed that my core values, leadership and respect for my community, my job and fellow officers would contribute to positive changes within community policing.”
“If past actions and history have shown us anything, the RCMP are not willing and do not want to change the way that they fundamentally interact and have policies and procedures with the community,” Fells said.
In ANSDPAD’s press release, Dean Simmonds also shared his disappointment and disillusionment with Nova Scotia’s criminal justice system.
“I have been dedicated and committed to addressing the mistrust between the Black Community and police,” Dean stated. “I truly believed that my core values, leadership and respect for my community, my job and fellow officers would contribute to positive changes within community policing.”