Nova Scotia

Halifax police chief to make formal apology on street checks next week

Dan Kinsella announced he will deliver an apology on Friday, Nov. 29 at 11 a.m. at the Halifax Central Library. He also said there will be more details about a plan to move forward at that time.

Dozens of people came out for panel discussion on street checks at Halifax North Memorial Public Library

People gathered at the library in north-end Halifax on March 30, 2019 for a rally against street checks. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

The chief of Halifax Regional Police says building trust with Nova Scotia's black community in the wake of the street checks saga will be a long process, but one that he's committed to.

Dan Kinsella announced he will deliver an apology on Friday, Nov. 29 at 11 a.m. at the Halifax Central Library. He also said there will be more details about a plan to move forward at that time.

"As you can imagine, there's a lot of sensitivities around it," Kinsella told reporters on Monday afternoon. 

"We know it is a powerful way to move forward, but it's much more than just the apology. It's the post-apology work that we will build into the plan to make sure that collectively we can move forward." 

On Monday night, Kinsellla joined a panel discussion at the Halifax North Memorial Public library to talk about what happens now that street checks have been banned in Nova Scotia. 

The panel was aimed at building trust between Halifax Regional Police and the black community. It was organized by the grassroots community movement 902 Man Up.

Street checks are a now banned in Nova Scotia after a legal opinion co-authored by a former top judge found the Halifax police practice, which disproportionately targeted black males, is illegal. The practice involves an officer interacting or observing a person and then recording personal or identifying information into a database.

A formal review by criminologist Scot Wortley released earlier this year revealed black people were street checked at a rate six times higher than white people in Halifax.

"The elephant in the room was racism, historical racism and the many aspects of racism because street checks are just a symptom of a larger problem," said Raymond Sheppard, a Halifax-area man who spoke out at the panel. He was one of dozens of people who attended the event.

The event was moderated by Information Morning host Portia Clark. Other members of the panel included: Tony Ince, minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs; Natalie Borden, chair of the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners; amd Kimberly Franklin, legal advisor for the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

Acknowledging negative impact of street checks

All four members of the panel acknowledged street checks in Nova Scotia haven't been good to the black community.

Franklin said the practice was "phenomenal" and "not in a good way." She said the practice fostered mistrust and fear.

Borden agreed and said acknowledging the hurt it has caused is a big first step.

Ince said street checks were just one piece of a larger problem.

A sign greeting guests to the panel. Cameras and audio recording devices were not allowed to be used during the panel. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

Kinsella said street checks began as an intelligence gathering measure that over time became used inappropriately. 

"This was not only a speaking exercise for me, but certainly a listening exercise," said Kinsella after the panel finished.

"It has confirmed and reaffirmed what needs to be done. More dialogue needs to occur and we really need to listen to the community, take in what they have to say and, together, come up with a plan."

Checking street check database

During the panel, people were able to ask questions about what will happen to the database of street check information. Kinsella said police are no longer using it and the plan is to have it "de-identified" or scrubbed by December 2020.

Kinsella said people who think they're in the database can file a freedom of information request to see what kind of information is there.

He said police will, "in a general sense," look back at past cases of street checking to see if there was any criminal wrongdoing.

Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella spoke with reporters before the panel on Monday afternoon. (CBC)

"It's a very difficult task. It isn't something that's easy. That's why I coupled it with my plea to the community to say if you've experienced something like that or if you believe that to be the case, let us know," he said, adding it could lead to an internal investigation.

Kinsella said if someone has a negative interaction with an officer, they should report it or file a complaint. He said officers are receiving diversity training.

Everyone on the panel acknowledged the police apology, followed by action, is a good first step to healing some of the broken relationships in the community.

More youth involvement

Trayvone Clayton, a community activist, told the panel they needed to be more proactive in reaching out to youth. He made the comment after Ince said his door is always open to young people.

Ken Fells, a school principal who also spoke to the panel, agreed and said there needs to be more focus on reaching out to youth.

"They don't know what to do," Fells said of the panel. "They have some suggestions, but they don't have the cultural capital to do that."

Fells said the panel was "extremely helpful" because "without the panel, there's no voice." But he said action and a timeline are needed.

"The biggest question that should have been asked is when you come back as a panel, will you have answers for us about what you're doing?" he said.

About the Author

Anjuli Patil

Reporter

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