Halifax police chief says apology for street checks to be made next week

ABOVE: Library hosts community conversation on the state of Halifax after street checks

The Halifax Regional Police say their apology to the African Nova Scotian community for the practice of street checks will be delivered next week.

Halifax Regional Police (HRP) chief Dan Kinsella confirmed to media his department will issue an apology for street checks, which a study found to be discriminatory and an independent legal opinion found to be illegal.

The apology will be issued on Nov. 29., at the Halifax Central Library at 11 a.m. ET.

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

“That apology needs to be to the community it is designed for,” said Kinsella at Monday’s meeting of the board of police commissioners, adding that invitations have already gone out to community members.

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Additional invitations for the mayor, municipal councillors and members of the board of police commissioners are expected to be sent out in the coming days.

The province’s justice department did not confirm or deny that theywould take part in the HRP’s apology.

“When we make an apology, it will be to the community directly. That is all we are prepared to say at this time,” wrote Lynette MacLeod, a spokesperson for the department.

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

Halifax District RCMP are unlikely to take part in the public apology next week.

Officials told the police board of commissioners on Monday that the force must meet with the provincial and federal governments before they decide to issue an apology.

An apology for that force, the officials said, may have a nationwide impact.

The planned apology comes after a report written by Scot Wortley, a professor of criminology at the University of Toronto, was published in March.

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

The report detailed 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.

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

Kinsella’s announcement came on the same day that he will take part in a community conversation on life after street checks.

The scheduled event is meant to be a partnership between the Halifax Public Libraries and 902 ManUp, a community organization established 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: Kinsella; Tony Ince, the Minister of African Nova Scotia Affairs; Natalie Borden, the chair of the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners; and Kimberly Franklin, a legal advisor for the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

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. As a result, the number of black people randomly stopped by police in Halifax could be much higher