Advocates call for immediate end to street checks 'exception'
N.S. premier says he will allow discussions to play out before making a decision
More than a year after Nova Scotia barred police from performing street checks, advocates say a loophole has allowed discriminatory policing to continue, and they want it closed.
A 2019 report showed Black people are six times more likely to be subjected to street checks than white people, which eventually led to a ban on the practice.
The ban was celebrated by many in the Black community, but Lana MacLean said she knew it was not the end of the story.
"I don't think the book is ever closed on issues that impact around systemic racism, so when you close one chapter ... there's always political or social fallout," said MacLean, a social worker who lives in Halifax.
MacLean is also chair of the social justice committee for the African United Baptist Association, one of 13 organizations and advocacy groups that are calling for Premier Iain Rankin and Justice Minister Randy Delorey to broaden the existing ban on street checks.
Police are still permitted to stop people and gather information based on an officer's objective determination of "suspicious activity," and MacLean and her fellow signatories say that caveat has left the door open for racial profiling.
"Street checks in a different form … continue. Not at the same rate, but it's still occurring," MacLean said.
An opportunity for reconciliation
Candace Thomas, Nova Scotia's deputy minister of justice, said earlier this month her department is discussing the scope of the street checks ban with the African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent Coalition. MacLean is a member of that group.
The renewed call, issued this week, notes that March 21 is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The signatories say that day would be a fitting time for the premier and justice minister to announce an end to what they call the "suspicious activity exception."
Responding to that call, Rankin said he would allow discussions to continue between the coalition and the Department of Justice before making any determinations.
"That's a very important discussion. Street checks are illegal and they shouldn't happen in the province," he told reporters Saturday following a funding announcement for amateur sports.
MacLean said she appreciates the premier's commitment to continuing the conversation with the coalition, and she understands that "process is process. Still, she had hoped Rankin would acknowledge the exception and eliminate it, immediately.
"This would have been a wonderful opportunity to show good intent and to show reconciliation," she said.
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.