Every Nova Scotian should feel safe, protected and well served by our public institutions, but many do not.
The Black Lives Matter movement in Nova Scotia and around the world has brought to the forefront the systemic failures of our current reliance on policing and law enforcement for public safety. This approach has privileged some and marginalized others, and it has perpetuated racism and inequality for generations.
Nova Scotians deserve better. We must do better. It is time for change.
That was Premier Stephen McNeil’s message today, Sept. 29, as he delivered an apology for the systemic racism that has marked our system of justice, including policing and the courts. The premier explained that the province is responsible for policing and public safety. He acknowledged that these institutions have not been just for many and apologized for the harms, trauma and pain many Nova Scotians have endured over generations.
“Our system of justice has failed members of our Black and Indigenous communities. This system is supposed to keep all Nova Scotians safe, but because of the colour of your skin, many of you live in fear. Today, I say: enough,” said Premier McNeil. “I see you, I hear you, I believe you and I am sorry. On behalf of my ministers, my caucus, our government, we are sorry racist institutions have failed you, your families and your ancestors. I can’t take away your pain or bring back the opportunities and lives lost. But I am showing up today to try to work with all of you to find a new approach to public safety.”
The premier committed to set a course for fundamental change in public safety, including the role and approach to policing and law enforcement. He committed to a restorative process to transform the approach to public safety in Nova Scotia and announced a design team to begin this process. The design team includes members from community, government and policing. The design team will work collaboratively and seek out and listen to voices, and perspectives from across the province.
The design team will determine what is required to support the fundamental changes needed across systems and structures to secure safety and justice for all Nova Scotians. The team will carry out its work over the next 12-18 months.
“Responsibility for public safety related to policing lies with the justice system but, at its core, the care for what it takes to make community safe is the business of many connected systems. We must pay attention to the intersecting needs and ways people have been marginalized so we can bring about change. Each team member has expressed a desire to make a difference, and an insistence that this will not be another ‘review.’ This is about mobilizing and creating the conditions and connections needed for action and change, and we stand on the shoulders of all the work of the past that has showed so clearly the problems and failings and the need for fundamental change.”
– Jacob MacIsaac, design team co-facilitator