Police commission to look for new legal rules on street checks

Councillor Waye Mason will ask HRM’s legal team to investigate legislative options for controversial practice.

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Chief Jean-Michel Blais speaking to reporters at City Hall. - THE COAST
  • THE COAST
  • Chief Jean-Michel Blais speaking to reporters at City Hall.

Police commissioner Waye Mason is calling for HRM’s legal team to look into new rules around the department’s use of street checks.


On Monday, the city councillor told his colleagues at the Board of Police Commissioners that he’d be making a motion on the matter at its next meeting in September.

Mason wants the municipality’s legal experts to investigate potential new regulations on the controversial practice, including looking at how Ontario legislated the similarly discriminatory practice of carding and rolling out a clear process for citizen complaints.

It’s an effort to try and make some progress on an issue many feel has stagnated.

“What I’m hearing from the public is, ‘Great, you’re doing these things, but it’s taking a long time,’” said Mason.

It’s been several months since a CBC investigation daylighted reams of data on how Halifax cops are interacting with the public. More than a decade of stats showed Black residents of HRM were three times more likely to be “street checked” by police than white residents.

Calls for a moratorium on the investigative tactic were brushed aside back in January. Instead, the Board of Police Commissioners voted on a more thorough data analysis, which evolved into an independent review from the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

That review is still at the starting gates. A data expert has been hired to look at the numbers, but their identity hasn’t yet been released by the police board.

Speaking Monday to reporters, chief Jean-Michel Blais said it could be several months before the independent analysis is complete.

In the meantime, anger around the practice continues to build. Solidarity Halifax recently held three days of action where the public wrote to HRP, councillors and MLAs advocating to end the use of street checks

Blais says he’s heard those concerns during some of the “ongoing discussions” HRP has had with community members.

“This is going to be a work in progress,” says the chief. 

“I think it’s been good,” Blais says, about the tense dialogue so far between HRP and community members. “Just because people may not agree with certain approaches does not mean that there is no dialogue.”

One immediate change Blais is hoping the legal review will allow for is deleting some of HRP’s backlog of street check data. The chief says he’s “not comfortable, whatsoever” having two-year-old files of little investigative value sitting around on the department’s servers.

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