The Province has strengthened the existing ban on street checks to provide clearer direction to police and ensure no Nova Scotian is subjected to the practice.
Attorney General and Justice Minister Brad Johns today, December 2, issued a new law enforcement directive to address concerns about an earlier directive that potentially allowed police to continue to illegally collect and record identifying information of individuals.
The new directive removes the term “suspicious activity” and replaces it with “reasonable suspicion” in cases where a crime is about to occur or has occurred. Reasonable suspicion is the legal standard to be used by police to detain individuals suspected of unlawful activity.
“Street checks are banned, and we have taken additional steps to better protect racialized communities by making changes to the directive that reflect the feedback we received,” said Minister Johns. “Today’s change makes it clear that police must use the criminal law standard of reasonable suspicion before detaining a person or collecting identifying information without their consent.”
The updated directive comes after consultation with both the African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent Coalition (ANSDPAD) and police. It supports government’s commitment to implement the recommendations of the 2019 Wortley Report on street checks and ensure street checks end.
“The ANSDPAD Coalition is pleased that the practice of street checks has been found to be illegal and has been banned by the provincial directive. We believe that police behaviour should be strictly guided by what is legal and believe that the current directive is an improvement. Ultimately, however, we need to fully address the historical problems that exist with policing Black bodies. We have proposed the need for an African Nova Scotian Policing Strategy and look forward to working with justice and policing officials to improve policing practices for all Nova Scotians.”
– Vanessa Fells, Director of Operations, African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent
“Police leaders in Nova Scotia share the provincial commitment to make required changes in public safety to address concerns about systemic racism and build trust with the community. Gathering information is an essential part of our duty to public safety, and the new directive will ensure fair and consistent policing across the province while allowing police to carry out required duties to ensure public safety.”
– Chief Robert Walsh, President, Nova Scotia Chiefs of Police Association
— the independent review of street checks in the Halifax Regional Municipality by Prof. Scot Wortley in 2019 found that African Nova Scotians were six times more likely to be randomly stopped or street checked by police than the rest of the population
The Minister’s directive can be viewed at: https://novascotia.ca/just/
Mandate letter of the Minister of Justice: https://novascotia.ca/exec_council/letters-2021/ministerial-mandate-letter-2021-AG-DOJ.pdf
The Wortley Report on street checks is available at: https://humanrights.novascotia.ca/streetchecks