HALIFAX – Nova Scotia’s justice minister is ordering a moratorium on street checks of pedestrians by police across the province. The suspension of the checks issued Wednesday will also apply to passengers in motor vehicles.
“We need to address the fear and mistrust that street checks have caused for many African Nova Scotians and in their communities, and public trust in policing we know is essential,” Justice Minister Mark Furey, himself a former police officer, said at a news conference.
Police street checks can be defined as the police practice of stopping pedestrians or drivers without cause and asking for identification and other information.
The minister’s directive comes in the wake of findings in a report that African Nova Scotians in the Halifax area were more than five times more likely to be stopped by police.
The report, by University of Toronto criminology professor Scot Wortley and commissioned by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, said those street checks have had a “disproportionate and negative” impact on the black community.
The Wortley report examined 12 years of data from Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP. It found street check rates in Halifax were among the highest in Canada, second only to Toronto. Wortley’s report found that although African Nova Scotians make up only 3.6 per cent of the population, they were subjected to 19.2 per cent of street checks.
The figures revealed that while black women were three times more likely to be stopped, black men were 9.2 times more likely to appear in Halifax street check statistics.
“Like most Nova Scotians, I’m alarmed by the findings of the Wortley report. These findings are alarming and unacceptable,” Furey said Wednesday. “These findings I know come as no surprise to the African Nova Scotian community. They’ve been raising this issue for many years and I understand their frustrations. Action must be taken to rebuild trust and to ensure all Nova Scotia are treated in a respectful and professional manner.”
The directive on Wednesday follows one issued March 28 where police were directed by the minister to cease using street checks as part of a quota system or performance measurement.