Police stops in Nova Scotia are a growing area of concern.
Everyone wants to live in a safe community. If the tools used to allegedly make our communities safer are disproportionately targeting certain groups of people though, we need to reconsider the efficacy and morality of using those tools. Street checks are meant to look at people who are acting suspiciously to proactively prevent crime. Police admit that black Nova Scotians are 3x more likely to be stopped than any other population though. We know this, because these checks record details such as age, gender, location and ethnicity.
A resident of Nova Scotia, who happens to be a black man, says that every time a police cruiser passes him, he tenses up because being pulled over by police is normal for him. He guesses that he is stopped about three times a year.
Over 11 years, CBC News reported that 33% of Halifax’s clack population were checked, some people on multiple occasions. Only 9% of Halifax’s white population were checked.
In 2003, a human rights inquiry found that a Halifax man was pulled over and his car was seized because of his race. The police had to pay the man $10,000 in damages and they had to provide racial sensitivity training for officers and were ordered to start collecting data on the race of all drivers stopped by police. He is disappointed that the same type of racial discrimination is happening years after his incident, and he wants police street checks to end.
In Ontario, police were recently banned from gathering identifying information arbitrarily or based on a person’s race or their presence in high-crime areas during their carding practices. The goal is to protect the rights of people who are not under investigation.
The Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia has provided some helpful information regarding legal rights for people to be aware of when dealing with police.
A black RCMP officer in Halifax has commented that he believes these street checks are key to solving crimes. He speaks from personal experience, noting that he has solved crimes by stopping people at 2 in the morning and later connecting these people to break and enters int he area.
While there is considerable debate on this issue, one thing for certain is that a serious look into police stops needs to take place.
This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA or PBSC.