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Community conversation on Halifax street checks a way to move forward

ABOVE: Community conversation on Halifax street checks a way to move forward

Halifax is preparing for what could be a spirited discussion on the highly controversial topic of street checks.

On Monday the general public, a variety of community organizations and municipal stakeholders will gather at the Halifax North Memorial Public Library to discuss the practice.

The goal is to find a way forward now that a study found street checks to be discriminatory and an independent legal opinion found the practice to be illegal.

READ MORE: Halifax police chief says force will apologize to African Nova Scotians

The event scheduled is meant to be a partnership between the Halifax Public Libraries and 902 ManUp — a community organization created to help make a positive difference in the African Nova Scotia community.

The forum will allow community members to ask questions to four guest panelists: Tony Ince, the Minister of African Nova Scotia Affairs;  Dan Kinsella, the Chief of Halifax Regional Police; Natalie Borden, the chair of the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners; and Kimberly Franklin, a legal advisor for the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

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Reaction to incoming apology from justice minister on street checks
Reaction to incoming apology from justice minister on street checks

A report written by Scot Wortley, a professor of criminology at the University of Toronto, was published in March and how African Nova Scotians were five times more likely to be stopped and street-checked by police than the general population.

His report analyzed 12 years of data from both the Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP, which patrols certain parts of the HRM. The report found that between 2006 and 2017, black people were disproportionately questioned by police.

Wortley concluded that street checks had a “disproportionate and negative” impact on the African Nova Scotia community.

An independent legal opinion prepared by former chief justice Michael MacDonald and research lawyer Jennifer Taylor of the law firm Stewart McKelvey and published in October found the practice of street checks to be illegal.

Nova Scotia’s justice minister quickly ruled that a temporary moratorium on street checks he issued in April would become permanent.

READ MORE: Moratorium on N.S. street checks to be permanent after independent legal opinion finds practice illegal

What are street checks?

The legal assessment and the Wortley report both define a street check as a record or identifying information about an individual that is collected during an “interaction between the police and a member of the public, or upon observation of a member of the public by the police.”

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That means the data captured as street checks doesn’t include all police traffic stops and pedestrian stops and as a result, the number of black people being randomly stopped by police in Halifax could be much higher.

Halifax police progressing on recommendations in street check report
Halifax police progressing on recommendations in street check report

The idea behind Monday’s event is to have an open dialogue about what happens now that street checks are banned.

Marcus James with 902 ManUp says banning the practice just the beginning.

“There’s been a lot of pain through this and we now need to address that, and how do we address that as a society and I think that’s what tomorrow’s conversation will bring in terms of moving forward,” James told Global News on Sunday.

Anyone is welcome to attend the community conversation. The doors will open at 6 p.m., while the event will begin at 6:30 p.m.