NDP candidates say they will close suspicious activity “loophole” and end police street checks

NDP candidate for Preston in the upcoming election, Colter Simmonds, met with party chairman Gary Burrill and community activist Quentrel Provo in a playground in Cherrybrook on Saturday to publicly discuss roadside checks by the police.

They were joined by Suzy Hansen, the NDP candidate for Halifax-Needham; Angela Downey, the Hammonds Plains-Lucasville nominee; and Matthew Green, a federal MP from the Hamilton Center in Ontario.

Roadside checks were banned in Nova Scotia in 2019 after a report by Ontario criminologist Scot Wortley concluded that, despite being authorized under the Nova Scotia Police Act, they threatened people’s privacy. Wortley’s report was in response to a CBC investigation that found that blacks and other colored people are more likely to be stopped or watched and their information is being recorded as data by both Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP.

Simmonds, Burrill and Provo spoke of a “loophole” in the ban on suspicious activity, saying that roadside checks are actually still going on.

Simmonds and Provo both spoke about several cases where they say they were racially profiled by police before and after the ban.

Simmonds said there was an incident when he was leaving Shoppers Drug Mart with family members as passengers and suspected that he was being followed by a police car. He says he drove into a McDonald’s to see if the police would follow him, and they did. He said they continued to follow him after he went through the passage and then put him on.

“They really had no reason to persuade us, just that, as we always hear, we ‘fit the description,'” Simmonds said. “In the end, nothing really happened, except the disappointment of having family members in the vehicle and being stopped … for no real reason.”

Regarding a second incident, Simmonds said he was admittedly “irritated” when police stopped him; he was asked to show his driver’s license and registration and then get out of the vehicle to remove an un-tinted cover from the dealership license plate.

“What about the people and the persons who are so frustrated with such things that they cannot hold back and it becomes a situation where [the police] do you have the right to get you out of the car and basically harass you? ”said Simmonds.

Provo said he was addressing this very issue to the police in panel discussions. He said that ironically, he was one of the four to five times he was stopped by the police since buying a new Mercedes Benz while he was on his way to collect the money for his speech at one of those police panels.

Simmonds then described a third case when he was taking his son to school. Simmonds described how a white Halifax police officer stopped him and accused him of not stopping at a stop sign. Simmonds said he told the police officer, “I checked and saw where you were and made sure to come to a complete stop because I usually don’t come to a full stop, but because I saw you, I am completely stalled. ”

Provo also spoke of an incident in his youth when he was stopped by RCMP on Lake Major Road. in North Preston and handcuffed while his vehicle was searched. He said he was crying and feeling embarrassed.

Provo is on a basketball team. In recent years, he said that the six black players were drawn about 30 times while the roughly 10 white players were only stopped twice. Once, when one of the white players was stopping in a black player’s car, the policeman asked the white player, “Is he okay?”

“It’s interesting that you’re actually talking about this,” said Simmonds, “and the general public is seeing the discrepancies and the unfair treatment that definitely needs to change. How enough is enough. ”

Before asking questions, Burrill said, “An NDP government will completely ban, completely ban, roadside checks across Nova Scotia.”

The group was asked about police officers who continue to conduct roadside checks despite the ban, where and how they believe the McNeil and Rankin governments have failed since the ban, and what an NDP government would do differently.

In response, Burrill referred to the Wortley Report, which he said “makes recommendations on precisely these issues that have not been implemented. There are recommendations there for appropriate support for civil servants who call other civil servants for (…) unprofessional activities. There are recommendations there for the elimination of officials who do an exceptional job working with various communities. There was no reaction to that. ”

He continued, “As part of our commitment as the NDP, it is therefore important that the recommendations of the Wortley Report (…) are fully implemented and a mechanism to report to lawmakers on the progress that is being made on this front . ”

When asked about removing the “suspicious activity” loophole while considering actual cases of suspicious activity, Simmonds admitted that there must be a balance. Still, he emphasized, “You have to look at the statistics and understand that you want to be sure, but we also want to be sure. When my 21-year-old son leaves the house to go out with his friends, I shouldn’t have to talk to him about how to behave with cops because of the color of his skin. ”

Last week, Preston’s Liberal candidate Angela Simmonds and her husband, Halifax Regional Police Superintendent Dean Simmonds, both black, accused the Cole Harbor RCMP of racial profiling after the couple were stopped at gunpoint after a reported shooting in North Preston.

Halifax Regional Police have apologized for past roadside checks; the RCMP does not.

When asked whether the provincial contract with the RCMP should be terminated and their duties transferred instead to the Halifax Regional Police, Burrill replied, “Our position is that the recommendations of the Wortley report apply not only to the HRP but also to the RCMP should.”

Hamilton Center MP Matthew Green said that roadside checks were a constitutional issue “which, statistically, is absolutely about racial profiling”.

Green brought a case in which he said he was racially profiled by the police in Hamilton, where he was a councilor at the time, and when Dan Kinsella was Hamilton’s deputy chief of police; Kinsella is now Chief of Halifax Regional Police.

Green has an active human rights complaint against the Hamilton Police Department. “I know this subject very well,” he said.

When asked directly about Kinsella, Green replied, “I think he was right about the (street check) apology, but without action it is empty and meaningless. And we heard that over and over again, ”he said, pointing to Colter Simmonds and Quentrel Provo.

After speaking to reporters, Simmonds and Burrill took part in the North Preston Day Parade in North Preston and were accompanied by Liberal candidate Angela Simmonds and PC candidate Archy Beals. Colter Simmonds said he knew Angela Simmonds and her husband, Dean Simmonds, and the three “are like family”.

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