On Wednesday, it was reported that the RCMP won’t be following suit with Halifax Regional Police in apologizing to the Black community for use of street checks.

Street checks are now banned in Nova Scotia after an independent review found Black people were six times more likely to be street checked than white people.

The Examiner reached out to a number of people for their reaction, including a number of Halifax Regional councillors, where the city has contracts with both the Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP. Here’s who we contacted:

  • District 2 councillor, David Hendsbee, whose district both encompasses the Prestons (the largest Black community east of Quebec), and is serviced by the RCMP.
  • District 4 councillor, Trish Purdy, whose district borders Hendsbee’s, is serviced by the RCMP, and is home to many Black people from or with family ties to the Prestons.
  • District 12 and 13 councillors, Iona Stodadard, who is Black, and Pam Lovelace, whose districts, respectively, encompass the Black communities of Beechville and Hammonds Plains, and are serviced by the RCMP.
  • District 8 councillor, Lindell Smith, who is Black, and whose district is home to one of the other (likely second) largest concentrations of Black people in the province.
  • District 5 and 6 councillors, Sam Austin and Tony Mancini, whose Dartmouth districts are also home to a large population of Black people, many from and with family ties to the Prestons.
  • And the councillors for districts 1, 14, and 15, Cathy Deagle, Lisa Blackburn, and Paul Russell, whose districts are also serviced by the RCMP.

We did not reach out to councillors for districts 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, and 16 or to Halifax Mayor Mike Savage.

District 14 Councillor Lisa Blackburn was the first to respond and replied to all four of our questions:

Councillor Lisa Blackburn, District 14 Middle/Upper Sackville – Beaver Bank – Lucasville.

The Examiner: Do you think the RCMP were wrong to not follow suit with the Halifax Regional Police in apologizing to the Black community over disproportionate street checks? If not, was HRP wrong in issuing an apology?

Blackburn: The decision not to issue an apology is so disappointing. To me it’s not enough for the RCMP to acknowledge the disproportionate harm that street checks have caused to marginalized communities. To me it shows a lack of understanding of systemic racism.

The Examiner: In your opinion, should the city discontinue their rollover contract from amalgamation with the RCMP due to their contrast with HRP? If not, why not?

Blackburn: This decision should be considered as part of the overall independent review of the current policing model that Council asked for back in April. The review will provide an evaluation and make recommendations on the current division of police services in HRM.

The Examiner: Since the HRP apology and RCMP announcing a national study on the issue, have you and/or the council considered what next steps might look like, in an instance such as this, where the RCMP still refuses to apologize? If not, why not? If so, what specifically was considered?

Blackburn: Next steps have not been considered yet as we await the report on the independent review. I do want this decision on not apologizing to be considered as part of the overall review. It’s hard for me to understand why an apology is not possible when they recognize the harm the policy has done.

The Examiner: What would your message be to Black constituents in your district, and the rest of the municipality, upset by this latest development?

Blackburn: I am angry and disappointed with this decision. It is tone deaf and will make it difficult for our Black communities to work with RCMP moving forward. I just want to know why as many of our Black communities do.

On Wednesday, District 9 Councillor Shawn Cleary was on NEWS 95.7 and said he thinks the city should do away with its contract with the RCMP.

Councillor Shawn Cleary, District 9 – Halifax West Armdale.

“Now more than ever I want to see the RCMP out of Halifax”

“They regularly over police Indigenous and Black Nova Scotians”

“Duplications and certainly the cost savings that could come to us by only having one force … The RCMP is getting more expensive. They just had a big union contract increase, so that’s going to hit us in the budget as well, but this was the proverbial straw the broke the camel’s back.”

I later heard back from District 5 Councillor Sam Austin who wrote:

Councillor Sam Austin, District 5 – Dartmouth Centre.

“I was really disappointed in the RCMP’s decision to not apologize for street checks. I think they should apologize like HRP did two years ago. Policing reform is a very important topic and Council has initiated a process to look at it. I said it at Council that if the RCMP is so centrally controlled from Ottawa that they can’t even manage three words, “I am sorry” then it really makes me question whether they’re at all capable of reforming policing with us. We may reach a point where we have to choose between changing policing and keeping the RCMP. If they can’t change with us, it’s hard for me to see the RCMP having a long-term future in HRM.”

Early this morning, I also heard back from District 13 Councillor Pam Lovelace:

Councillor Pam Lovelace, District 13 Hammonds Plains – St. Margaret’s.

The Examiner: Do you think the RCMP were wrong to not follow suit with the Halifax Regional Police in apologizing to the Black community over disproportionate street checks? If not, was HRP wrong in issuing an apology?

Lovelace: Yes.

The Examiner: In your opinion, should the city discontinue their rollover contract from amalgamation with the RCMP due to their contrast with HRP? If not, why not?

Lovelace: The policing contract is between RCMP and the Province of Nova Scotia. The Police Act is provincial legislation.

The Examiner: Since the HRP apology and RCMP announcing a national study on the issue, have you and/or the council considered what next steps might look like, in an instance such as this, where the RCMP still refuses to apologize?
If not, why not? If so, what specifically was considered?

Lovelace: In April, Regional Council initiated a review of police services to better align with the needs of the municipality. (See more here)

The Examiner: What would your message be to Black constituents in your district, and the rest of the municipality, upset by this latest development?

Lovelace: Regional Council is conducting a police services review to determine if the current mix of RCMP and HRP is viable and appropriate for HRM. The RCMP must demonstrate their ability to evolve with the growing needs of Halifax to become a more inclusive and equitable municipality. Their recent refusal to issue an apology to Black communities in Nova Scotia indicates that as a federal institution engaged in systemic racist behaviours, RCMP leadership is not willing to appropriately meet the needs of our communities.


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Matthew Byard, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Matthew Byard writes news, profiles, and stories of the Black Nova Scotia community. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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