Black coalition won't join N.S. team looking at ways to restructure justice system
'You'll never see me participate in anything my community is not privy to,' says Lynn Jones
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil's apology on behalf of the provincial government for decades of systemic racism is not going over well with some members of the Black community.
McNeil announced he's putting together a team that will take the next 18 months to look for ways to restructure the justice system to eliminate racism. But the African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent Coalition announced Wednesday it would take a pass on joining the team.
"You'll never see me participate in anything my community is not privy to, a part of and providing direction for," said Lynn Jones said, a long-time social activist in Nova Scotia who is part of the coalition.
In a news release, the coalition said it already developed "a thorough plan for an African Nova Scotian Justice Institute and an African Nova Scotian Policing Strategy, which the government has yet to support."
Jones said she doesn't take any issue with those who've agreed to sit on the design team.
Issue of how team was assembled
"It's how [the province] went behind closed doors, hand picked people without any community input — that's where the problem lies," she said.
Jones said any initiative to make the justice system less racist must originate from the Black and Indigenous communities.
During his apology yesterday, McNeil said his government would be looking for ways to reimagine a system of justice in Nova Scotia.
Why team was assembled
The list of people on the design team included government officials, police, lawyers and community members who he said have been empowered to create a restorative approach that will "transform public safety in Nova Scotia."
A 2019 report found Black people in Halifax were subjected to street checks six times as often as white people.
Just months after the report was released, street checks were permanently banned after a review concluded the practice is illegal.
Nova Scotia's Public Prosecution Service unveiled a policy last year to ensure Indigenous people are treated fairly in light of statistics showing Indigenous people make up less than three per cent of Nova Scotia's population, but eight to 10 per cent of people in custody.
There have also been high-profile incidents in Nova Scotia of questionable police arrests caught on video.
Earlier this year, Santina Rao, a Black woman, was left with a broken wrist, concussion and bruising after being arrested by police inside a Walmart. Charges against Rao were later dropped.
In February, a Black teenager was hurt when police arrested him outside a Bedford mall. He recorded the arrest. Police did not charge the boy with anything. Nova Scotia's police watchdog is investigating the arrest.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
With files from Preston Mulligan