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Street check suspension buying time before regulation 

Province arranges working group, announces training, bails on ban.

Perrin at last week’s press conference. - FILE
  • Perrin at last week’s press conference.
  • FILE

Last week justice minister Mark Furey announced a moratorium on street checks "until further notice." The decision followed Scot Wortley's report for the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission that found Black men people are six times more likely to be street checked by police than white men and a strong recommendation from the Board of Police Commissioners to suspend the practice.

For now the practice is suspended, but the province appears to be moving in the direction of regulation, not a ban.

Kate Macdonald is a member of the Wortley Report Action Planning Working Group, and says, "I think that it's important to note that every step forward is a step in the right direction no matter how big or small." Macdonald adds that "the urgency of a permanent ban needs to have the same momentum and turnaround time as the moratorium did."

The working group put together by the province of 25 representatives is meeting weekly to work on a plan of actions for the minister, says spokesperson Shannon Kerr. She says they are also studying Justice Tulloch's January report out of Ontario, which says the practice of carding should still be abolished outright—even after rules were strictly tightened in 2017—"as we move toward strict regulation," says Kerr, suggesting a ban isn't in the cards and regulation is the goal.

Macdonald says that regulation seems contradictory: "Regulating something that is an inherently racist practice doesn't work. It's a practice that thrives systemic racism and anti-Black racism. And because of that, there is no way to regulate those actions. There's no way to regulate that practice."

Much of the debate around regulation versus a ban stems from the debate on what exactly a street check is. The confusion exists in the distinction between "street checks are illegal because they are used to create harm based on racial discrimination—therefore in violation of the declaration of human rights" versus "street checks being illegal when they are used to create harm based on racial discrimination."

The RCMP, HRP and the province are being vague about whose responsibility taking responsibility for the harm is, and how Nova Scotia will move forward. HRP is resting on the province's "until further notice" laurels. At a press conference last week, when asked if he felt the Black community was owed an apology by the HRP for the findings in Wortley's report, superintendent Jim Perrin offered "We believe that organizational apologies are a complex," as an answer. He added, however, "at the end of the day our professionalism is going to shine through."

The justice department is rolling out training for more than 1,900 police while the working group meets, but it's unclear if community demands for a ban will be met.

"The root of this is Black folks here wanting liberation versus permission to just exist," says Macdonald. "We want to be free of this practice, versus trying to live within the constraints of this practice, because it actually inhibits our freedom to live."

—-
Editor's note: The original version of this story said that the Board of Police Commissioners officially recommended banning the practice, which was incorrect. The Board of Police Commissioners strongly recommended a suspension of the practice. We regret the error.


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