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Report on street checks cost Nova Scotia government $95,000: documents

Scot Wortley listens to a question at a community meeting on street checks on May 21, 2019. .
Scot Wortley listens to a question at a community meeting on street checks on May 21, 2019. . Alexander Quon/Global News

A report that determined that African Nova Scotians were five times more likely to be stopped and street checked by police than the general population cost the Nova Scotia government $95,000, according to documents obtained by Global News in response to a freedom of information request.

Scot Wortley, a professor of criminology at the University of Toronto, published his 180-page report in March. The report, commissioned by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, analyzed 12 years of data from both the Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP. 

The report found that between 2006 and 2017 that black people were disproportionately questioned by police. Wortley concluded that street checks had a “disproportionate and negative” impact on the African Nova Scotia community.

READ MORE: Will banning street checks be enough? Concerns heard as Halifax community meetings get underway

Very little information is gleaned from the FOI request, which asked the Department of Justice for communications, internal emails and notes about the street checks report before its release on March 27 and for the days between the publication of the document and the decision by the justice minister to order an end to street checks as a “quota” system or “performance tool” on March 29.

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The majority of the 134 pages of documents provided to Global News are completely redacted, including all recommendations on the province’s response to the highly critical report.

What did make it through the redaction process is a request to the Department of Justice dated March 12 for $25,000 by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

It’s one of two requests for additional funding that the organization made after the initial funding of Wortley’s report was created.

In total, the report cost $95,000, officials with the Department of Justice and Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission confirmed.

WATCH: There will be no apologies from Halifax police, RCMP over street checks

There will be no apologies from Halifax police, RCMP over street checks
There will be no apologies from Halifax police, RCMP over street checks

A more detailed breakdown of $95,000 figure wasn’t available but it does include costs associated with rental space for the community meeting held by Wortley and the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

“The costs are in line with the level of expertise and analysis required to complete an undertaking of this importance and scope,” said Heather Fairbairn, spokesperson for the Department of Justice.

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The cost of the report is unlikely to be the end of any financial impact on the provincial government in response to street checks and whether those changes, if they do come, will produce meaningful results remains uncertain.

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For the moment, there is a province-wide moratorium on street checks and the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners has sought an opinion on the legality of the practice. All of this comes as provincial stakeholders develop a comprehensive plan to deal with street checks in Nova Scotia.

But the African Nova Scotian community has repeatedly expressed concern and criticism that this report may not resort in meaningful change. Even Wortley’s report highlights the cynicism to his own inquiry.

“Many dismissed the inquiry as a ‘public relations’ initiative and that any meaningful recommendations stemming from the final report would be ignored,” Wortley writes.

“Many of the older community members stated that they had witnessed this type of inquiry in the past and were therefore pessimistic about the prospects for meaningful reform.”

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READ MORE: Halifax Board of Police Commissioners to seek opinion on legality of street checks

The provincial government maintains that the report will produce results.

“Dr. Scot Wortley is an expert in his field. It was important that concerns over racialized street checks and the data collected be assessed by an expert who could provide us with insights and recommendations,” said Fairbairn.

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“Key learnings from Dr. Wortley’s report and recommendations are helping to inform the work currently underway to develop a plan with short, medium and long term actions. These actions, along with strict regulations, will to help to ensure that all police interactions with the public are conducted in a manner that is professional and respectful of citizens’ rights under the Charter of Rights & Freedoms.”

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