Halifax police chief says apology for street checks to be made next week – Globalnews.ca

Halifax police chief says apology for street checks to be made next week - Globalnews.ca
Woman frustrated at being shut out of police review into her rape case
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.

“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.

The conversation comes on the heels of last month's decision from the justice minister to permanently ban street checks that followed the release of an independent legal opinion that street checks are illegal. 

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 forum is being presented through a partnernship between Halifax Public Libraries and 902 Man Up, a community organization created to help make a positive difference in the African Nova Scotia community.

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

The issue of street checks will be top of mind again Monday in Halifax, when those directly involved in and affected by the practice gather to discuss what has happened, and what to do next. 

“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.

"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," said James. 

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.

The group's Marcus James telling Global News there are many discussions that still need to happen. 

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

“Street checks are banned, OK, but police can still act the way they want to act just because they have a badge and a gun,” Clayton said outside the police commision meeting. “Especially because of our skin colour, (police) can still act however they want to act against us. When they approach a white, you can tell that the tone in their voices and their attitudes are different. When they approach a black, it’s with multiple people and they come at us strong.”

The report detailed how African Nova Scotians were five times more likely to be stopped and street-checked by police than the general population.

At the same meeting, the opinion was shared that street checks are illegal, a legal opinion delivered a week earlier by Michael MacDonald, former chief justice of Nova Scotia. That legal opinion convinced provincial Justice Minister Mark Furey to extend to a permanent ban his  April 17 directive to suspend street checks of pedestrians and passengers in motor vehicles. Furey also said later that an apology from the province is forthcoming.

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.

“Yes, there has been some damage done and this is all going to be a part of the healing for the African Nova Scotia community and abroad because that is the opportunity that is presented. This has been an issue right across the nation. We have the opportunity to work with law enforcement as well as our government officials and agencies as community in moving those conversations forward.” 

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

The format will feature four panelists or speakers — Tony Ince, the provincial minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs; Halifax Police Chief Dan Kinsella; Natalie Borden, chairwoman of the Halifax police commission; and Kimberly Franklin, a senior lawyer with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

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.

“Street checks have contributed to the criminalization of black youth, eroded trust in law enforcement and undermined the perceived legitimacy of the entire criminal justice system,” Wortley said in his report, recommending that the practice be banned outright or strictly regulated.

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

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

“We all would agree that law enforcement is needed but I think also most officers know that they are remembered in the community for the community engagement work that they do,” said Marcus James, co-founder and president of the group. 

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.

At a police commission meeting four weeks ago, Kinsella promised that an apology to the African Nova Scotia community is pending and reassured that Halifax Regional Police have abandoned the practice of 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.”

That’s what 902 ManUp, a group of African Nova Scotia men dedicated to promoting a safe community, want to talk about in a meeting set for 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Halifax North library on Gottingen Street. 

That means the data captured as street checks doesnt 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

James said people hope to get some answers, not all the answers, at Monday`s meeting, which is scheduled for two hours and will be moderated by CBC Information Morning host Portia Clark.

A woman who is challenging the way police complaints are handled in Nova Scotia says she's frustrated she was unable to give her version of events during an internal police review of her sexual assault case.

“However, this is just the beginning of our journey,” James said. “Having a complete ban allows us to sit at the table, all on the same page.” 

Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella ordered the review in September, a day after Carrie Low went public in a CBC story about the confusion and delays that plagued a police investigation after she reported she'd been raped in May 2018.

Her lawyer, Jessica Rose, said Monday she asked Kinsella whether Low would be invited to be part of the review, and his "response was no, which was disappointing."

“Street checks is not community engagement. It never was. It was used as a tool to gather data, gather information on marginalized communities.” 

"Part of the main problem that we see with this whole process is how little Carrie's voice has been included," said Rose. "So the fact that an internal review is taking place but without there being an opportunity for Carrie to voice her perspective about where everything went wrong, is troubling."

"I also wanted the opportunity just to sit down with Dan Kinsella and just talk to him one on one, and he hasn't been open to that discussion either. So it has been very frustrating," she said.

Low said she was kidnapped and violently raped by two men after she suspects her drink was spiked at a Darmouth, N.S., bar. She reported it to police almost immediately, but said officers took 10 days to pick up her clothes, did not visit the scene of the crime and failed to process her toxicology paperwork for months.

On Monday, Kinsella told reporters outside a board of police commissioners meeting that he has received the results of the review, but he would not say specifically what they were.

"I have looked at them, but I have to have some further consultation in regards to where do we go and how do we move forward," he said.

"There have been some learnings from that particular review, but those consultations have to happen with the investigators and with the supervision within the [sexual assault investigation team] unit."

Low is also challenging a decision by the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner to reject her complaint against Halifax Regional Police because she filed it outside of the six-month statute of limitations.

In September, Low and a team at the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia went to court to try to force the commissioner to investigate her complaint.

On Monday, Low's case was in court before Justice Kevin Coady to set dates. There will be two separate court processes next year to address Low's concerns.

"One has to do specifically with Carrie's case and how it was dealt with," said Rose. "The other has to do with the constitutionality of the regulation more generally."

If Low is successful at the first date in March her complaint against the police will be reheard. Regardless of what happens in March, Low's team will appear in court again in June.

"If we are successful at the June dates, then the regulation that contains the six-month limitation period will be struck down entirely," Rose said. "It'll be a broader systemic change." 

Lawyer Sheldon Choo appeared on behalf of the Attorney General of Nova Scotia and the police complaints commissioner, but declined to comment.

Shaina Luck covers everything from court to city council. Her favourite stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Email: [email protected]

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