20 Apr Moratorium Placed on Street Checks of Pedestrians, Vehicle Passengers
On April 17, Attorney General and Justice Minister Mark Furey issued a moratorium, effective immediately, on street checks of pedestrians and passengers in motor vehicles until further notice. The directive was issued to all police officers in Nova Scotia, and specifies that no activity conducted by police, including traffic stops, can be done based on discrimination, including race.
Street checks in public areas such as parks, sidewalks or other places accessible to the public are covered by the directive, provided there is no suspicious or illegal activity taking place.
“The inappropriate use of street checks is alarming and unacceptable,” said Mr. Furey. “Public trust in policing is essential. We need to address the fear and mistrust that street checks have caused for many in the African Nova Scotian community.”
Three weeks ago, Prof. Scot Wortley released an independent review of street checks in Halifax Regional Municipality, which showed that African Nova Scotians are six times more likely to be street checked by police in Nova Scotia. He recommended that the province consider a moratorium while working to address the report’s findings.
The new directive directive follows one issued March 28, when Justice Minister Mark Furey directed police to cease using street checks as part of a quota system or performance measurement tool for front-line officers.
During the moratorium, traffic stops will still take place to ensure safety and compliance under the Motor Vehicle Act and the Criminal Code, and police can stop a vehicle to ensure the motorist has a valid driver’s licence, registration, proof of insurance and an up-to-date motor vehicle inspection. Additionally, police can inquire into suspicious activity and conduct sobriety checks on stopped motorists.
While police can interact with citizens as part of their duties, drivers are not under obligation to provide unrelated personal information should they choose so.
In order to ensure actual change ending the current practices and rebuild public trust in policing, a group of community members, including youth, police, the Halifax board of police commissioners, the Human Rights Commission, African Nova Scotian Affairs and staff from the Department of Justice, are teaming up to create a plan based on the Wortley Report’s findings.
The plan will provide government with recommended actions, which will strictly regulate street checks in a way that will prevent any forms of discrimination.
In addition to the moratorium, the Department of Justice is also taking action by investing in mandatory training for more than 1,900 police. Focusing on the findings of the report, the training will reinforce the fundamentals of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the RCMP’s Mission, Vision and Values, and Codes of Conduct for municipal police.
For more information or to see the directive related to street checks go to https://novascotia.ca/street-checks/.