The Nova Scotia government has missed its end-of-week target for a decision on whether to ban – or regulate – police street checks.
Justice Minister Mark Furey said Friday that literature review and community consultations have taken longer than he expected. He now hopes to make an announcement sometime next week on the future of the controversial practice.
“The more I read and the information that’s presented to me, it necessitates a little further dialogue and understanding from individuals within the African-Nova Scotian community,” he told reporters at the end of the spring session at Province House.
Part of the delay, he explained, is understanding the true definition and intent of a “street check,” so that new rules can be written with airtight accuracy, particularly when it comes to restrictions on police powers.
The statement comes nearly three weeks after the release of an independent report highlighting discrimination in how street checks are carried out in Halifax. It found that African Nova Scotians are six times more likely to be street-checked than Caucasians, and that practice has led to severe distrust in the community for police and government.
But as Furey continues to deliberate, members of the African Nova Scotian community say their peers and colleagues continue to suffer harm and division as a result of ongoing street checks. Furey recently banned street checks for the purpose of filling quotas or measuring police performance, but that action was widely considered to fall short of the mark.
“The work that the government is now doing is really 16 years late,” said Robert Wright of the African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent (DPAD).
“So I don’t really think, given the fact that the voices that have been calling for a ban on street checks have been so learned and so clear, that the need to consult is really necessary.”
DPAD’s position that street checks are illegal given the substantiated harm they cause, and that the government must ban them altogether posthaste.
Community and youth activist Trayvone Clayton met one-on-one with Furey earlier this week to explain how it feels to be street-checked by a cop, and to constantly live in fear that another stop may be coming. He said he understands that Furey has “a lot on his plate,” but doesn’t see the need for further consultation or whether or not to ban street checks.
“It just hurts to see this kind of stuff continuing to be pushed back,” he told Global News. “Like, why is being pushed back if you have the report, you have all the statistics that you’ve seen, you have the voices of the ones that are affected by it?”
At the legislature, Furey said he hopes to reach a solution that meets the expectations of all the parties involved. But asked whether the African Nova Scotian community has presented him with an “expectation” other than a complete ban, he declined to say.
“I’ve had a number of different perspectives on what might work going forward,” he explained. “That includes a total ban, that includes strict regulations, that includes a moratorium at the first opportunity. These have been very engaging, very productive, collegial discussions.”