Nova Scotia

Halifax residents call for stop to street checks after racial profiling report

A report released by Scot Wortley for Halifax-area police found black people were six times more likely than white people to be stopped for a street check.

Report by Scot Wortley revealed black people 6 times more likely than white people to be stopped

A police officer observes as people walk down Gottingen Street during a march to call attention to the issue of street checks. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

More than 100 people marched through the streets of Halifax yelling, "No justice, no peace, no racist police" during a protest against street checks on Saturday.

Some of those residents are calling for an end to street checks after a new report on racial profiling by Halifax-area police found black people were six times more likely to be street checked than white people.

Connor Smithers-Mapp, who has lived in Halifax his whole life, said he's been stopped by police eight or nine times.

"Ironically, most of those occurrences were when I was practising with Nova Scotia Legal Aid, and I would be at the courthouse speaking with a client and members of HPD would come up and ask us who we were and what we were doing," he said.

Connor Smithers-Mapp participated in the march to end police street checks in Halifax. He said he has been the subject of street checks eight or nine times. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

Smithers-Mapp said he has no problem with sound, investigative techniques — but "arbitrarily asking people who they are and what they're doing, other than being illegal, it is also, I think, a waste of police resources."

Before the march, about 60 people attended a public meeting at the library in Halifax's north end to talk about criminology professor Scot Wortley's report for the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

One of the organizers of the march, DeRico Symonds, went through the report with a slide show.

He noted a portion of the report, under a heading "A Disturbing Statistic," that stated between 2006 and 2017, 2,195 black males were charged with at least one criminal offence.

DeRico Symonds was one of the organizers of the march. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

"This is equivalent to one-third (32.3 per cent) of the entire black male population of the Halifax region," the report noted.

Symonds said people in his community didn't need to see a report to confirm black people in Halifax experience racism, but added he does think the report could open other people's eyes.

"The report definitely does give tangible numbers, tangible information for folks who may not have been aware to now be aware and to now look at the data and the information," Symonds said.

Melinda Daye, a Halifax resident who attended the March, said street checks need to stop.

"What made me come out is what made me come out for numerous marches over the many years. Because if there is no justice there really is no peace. And that's what we want in this city," Daye said.

After the meeting, people marched from the library to the Halifax Regional Police station, down Barrington Street to the courthouse on Spring Garden Road and then back to the north-end library.

"Racism does exist, but it's up to everybody — it has to be everyone's responsibility to combat systemic racism, not just people of colour," said Symonds.

People gathered at the library in north-end Halifax on Saturday to discuss a new report about street checks. A march followed the discussion. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

Coun. Lindell Smith thanked the residents who shared their street check experiences with the report's author.

"I commend anybody here who was part of that, who had to share their trauma and relive that," he told the gathering. "But, again, I don't need a report to tell me what I have experienced as a young black man in the last 29 years."

Smith said "any practice that discriminates, that shows racial bias, that singles out people, should be stopped."

He said he supports the recommendation in Wortley's report that would see a moratorium on street checks while police and government seek advice on the legality of the practice and develop new regulations for their use.

Halifax Regional Police described the march on Saturday as peaceful and said it lasted about an hour. Some downtown Halifax streets were temporarily shut down by police as the march progressed to "maintain public safety," police said.

"Police encountered no issues with the protestors. We would like to thank all members of the public for their assistance and patience during this period of traffic interruption," police said in a news release.

Demonstrators stopped at the Halifax Regional Police station on Gottingen Street during a march against street checks on Saturday. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

About the Author

Anjuli Patil

Reporter

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