Nova Scotia

Halifax police board takes first steps in ordering civilian review of homeless encampment protest

The Halifax Board of Police Commissioners has voted to draft a mandate and terms of reference for an independent civilian review of the August 2021 protest that led to a clash between police and demonstrators as officials removed homeless encampments in the city's downtown.

Protesters and police clashed in August 2021 when officials began to tear down tents and shelters on city land

Police attend a protest after the city removed tents and small shelters for homeless people in Halifax on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Halifax is a step closer to getting an independent civilian review of a protest last summer that saw police and demonstrators clash, and officers deploy chemical irritants into a crowd of people protesting the removal of homeless encampments on city land.

The Halifax Board of Police Commissioners voted Tuesday to prepare "a draft of a mandate and terms of reference for an independent civilian review of the oversight, governance and policy aspects of [Halifax Regional Police's] handling" of the protest on Aug. 18, 2021.

"August 18th was a disheartening scenario that played out here in the municipality," said commissioner Becky Kent, regional councillor for Dartmouth South-Eastern Passage.

"Ultimately we want to do better and this could really bring something to the table."

Board vice-chair Carole McDougall said a review would be a good first step in ensuring a similar situation doesn't happen again.

"This is, I think, an opportunity for us to look at our own responsibility, to consider the policies we may develop over the next while," she said.

The motion passed unanimously. The mandate and terms of reference will be reviewed by the board at a future meeting.

Limitations of review

There are limits to what the review could cover. For example, it would not review police conduct or conduct of individual officers.

The protest last summer took place in front of the old Halifax public library at Spring Garden Road and Grafton Street. 

Police pepper-sprayed and arrested protesters as officials began clearing dozens of tents and temporary shelters from encampments in local parks and green spaces.

Last week, The Canadian Press reported that half the people who were arrested during the protest are no longer facing charges.


Anjuli Patil


Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.