Nova Scotia

Decision on street checks could come by week's end

Justice Minister Mark Furey told a legislature committee Monday evening he hoped to have a decision on whether to ban police street checks before the end of the spring session, which is expected to wrap up on Friday.

Justice Minister Mark Furey continuing to gather information

Justice Minister Mark Furey could render his decision on police street checks by the end of the week. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

Mark Furey may have a decision on police street checks as early as the end of this week.

Nova Scotia's justice minister told a legislature committee Monday that he hoped to have a decision before the end of the spring sitting at Province House.

The governing Liberals have scheduled extra long days this week, in what appears to be an attempt to conclude business by Friday.

"I'm confident, but circumstances could impact the timeline," said Furey. "I'm very hopeful that I will be able to make a decision prior to the closure of this sitting of the legislature."

The minister is under pressure to respond to a report commissioned by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission released 11 days ago.

In the report, University of Toronto criminologist Scot Wortley found black Nova Scotians were stopped and questioned by police six times more frequently than whites.

It's a finding Furey has called  "alarming and unacceptable" on several occasions.

The minister and senior Justice Department staff were called to appear in the legislature's ornate Red Room to defend the 2019-20 departmental budget, but NDP House leader Claudia Chender used her party's time to debate Furey about the controversial police measure.

Chender and her party have repeatedly called on the justice minister to impose a moratorium on random police checks and information gathering.

NDP House leader Claudia Chender believes street checks are discriminatory and not a valuable policing tool. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

"I'm certainly much closer to a decision than I was last week," Furey told Chender. "I continue to gather additional information over and above the Wortley report."

The minister would not say if he favoured an end to street checks, instead focusing on what he called "the most important element of this discussion" — training and the need for "re-education and retraining" of front-line police officers and their supervisors.

The minister also continued to defend his belief that street checks were "a valuable tool" for police officers if "used appropriately."

Chender challenged that belief.

"My understanding from the community, from legal instruments and from the Wortley report, is that street checks are not a valuable policing tool, that they are discriminatory," she said.

Tara Taylor, who described herself as "a beautiful brown-skinned female who's been street-checked 42 times since I've been driving at 16 years old," was unimpressed with Furey's testimony.

"A ban, it's a start," said Taylor.

"And it's a very big message to the community saying that they give a damn."

She was skeptical of Furey's focus on the need for more police training.

"You know you don't need to be trained to be considerate of the public," said Taylor.

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