News / Halifax

Nova Scotia NDP caucus calls on attorney general to end street checks

The NDP wrote a letter to Attorney General and Justice Minister Mark Furey asking for an immediate moratorium on the controversial police practice.

NDP MLA Lisa Roberts

Contributed / Metro file

NDP MLA Lisa Roberts

The Nova Scotia NDP is asking the province’s attorney general to put a stop to street checks, a practice the party says “has greatly eroded confidence in our police forces.”

In a letter to Attorney General and Justice Minister Mark Furey sent on Friday on behalf of the New Democrat caucus, MLAs Claudia Chender and Lisa Roberts urge Furey to “take every measure available” to himself and the government “to ensure police end this practice.”

The letter says the practice “causes distress to the individuals involved, and has greatly eroded confidence in our police forces.”

“Nova Scotia has an opportunity to mitigate further harm now by immediately establishing a moratorium on the practice of street checks.”

Halifax Regional Police define street checks, often referred to as carding, as “when an officer either observes somebody or something going on or has an interaction or conversation with someone” and then records it in a form.

Data released early this year shows Black people in Halifax are three times more likely than white people to be street checked by police. The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission hired University of Toronto criminologist Scot Wortley to research the issue. Wortley’s work is expected to take months, and in the meantime, police are refusing to even suspend the practice.

Roberts, the NDP’s African Nova Scotian Affairs spokesperson, said in an interview with Metro that the NDP caucus is looking forward to the findings of Wortley’s work, but it sees no reason to continue the practice.

Roberts said she hears concerns from people who don’t call the police when they need help, because they don’t trust them.

“That’s why we have police, to protect us,” she said.

“If you have a significant group in our community who do not feel protected, don’t feel able to call on the police when they have need, then that is too high a price to pay for a practice that we do not see as showing significant positive impact.”’

Police have only anecdotal evidence that street checks are an effective policing tool.

“We are not convinced by an argument that has been made that this would somehow inhibit policing,” Roberts said.

Roberts said the NDP believes the practice is unconstitutional, specifically in violation of Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees Canadians freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.

The party directed its letter to Furey because as attorney general and justice minister, he is responsible for policing.

“I think this felt like the appropriate place for us a provincial caucus to lodge this concern, and because also we don’t want this to only apply to the Halifax police service, but to apply across the province, including to the RCMP,” Roberts said.

Roberts said she doesn’t know whether Furey, a former police officer, will be receptive to the letter.

“I hope he’ll consider it,” she said. “I think, to be honest, people with an interest in effective policing should really be open to this.”

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