British Columbia

Vancouver council votes in favour of abolishing street checks, but police board has final say

Councillors in Vancouver have voted unanimously to ban officers from conducting street checks — the process of arbitrarily demanding and recording identification outside of any sort of police investigation.

Street checks disproportionately affect people of colour, Black and Indigenous residents, police data shows

A Vancouver police officer on East Hastings Street on May 26, 2020. Police data from 2017 shows Indigenous people are subject to 16 per cent of street checks, despite making up just two per cent of Vancouver's population. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Councillors in Vancouver have voted unanimously to ban officers from conducting street checks — the process of arbitrarily demanding and recording identification, outside of any sort of police investigation.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart praised the outcome of the vote in a social media statement late Wednesday, thanking the almost seven dozen speakers who offered their opinions on his motion.

He said street checks disproportionately affect people of colour and the city's Black and Indigenous residents.

Stewart, who also chairs the Vancouver Police Board, said only the board has the power to abolish the checks but he said he will pressure it to follow council's lead.

The mayor's Twitter message says the board is preparing to consider its own motion to review street checks and make a final decision on a ban.

Police data from 2017 shows Indigenous people are subject to 16 per cent of the checks, despite making up just two per cent of Vancouver's population. Black people are targeted five per cent of the time, but represent just one per cent of city residents.

More than 70 B.C. organizations signed an open letter in early July calling on the Vancouver Police Board and the provincial government to put an end to street checks.

The letter was co-written by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, Black Lives Matter Vancouver, the Hogan's Alley Society, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, and WISH Drop-In Centre Society, among others.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who also chairs the Vancouver Police Board, said only the board has the power to abolish the checks but said he will pressure it to follow council's lead. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Other jurisdictions reviewing checks

Last Thursday, Victoria city councillors unanimously approved a motion urging police in the provincial capital to end street checks.

Ontario introduced rules in 2017 to ban the checks in certain situations while Nova Scotia announced last year that it would halt the practice after a review ruled such checks are illegal.

Earlier this month, Montreal police revised their street check policy to require officers to give reasons for a check to the person they are stopping, but critics argue the change won't stop racial profiling.

With files from CBC News

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