N.S. premier apologizes for systemic racism in justice system

Premier Stephen McNeil apologized Tuesday for systemic racism in the justice system that has left Black and Indigenous Nova Scotians marginalized.

The provincial government said it is looking to restructure the justice system to eliminate racism and promote equality. 

“Our system of justice, from policing to courts to corrections, has failed many members of our Black community. A system that is supposed to keep you safe, but because of the colour of your skin you fear it,” said McNeil. 

“Today, I say, ‘Enough.’ I want you to know I hear you, I see you, I believe you, and I am sorry. On behalf of my ministers, my caucus, our government, we are sorry.” 

WATCH | N.S. premier apologizes to those failed by racist institutions, systems: 

Stephen McNeil spoke on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at the YMCA on Gottingen Street in Halifax. 1:31

McNeil said his government is looking to “reimagine a system of justice in Nova Scotia.” To do that, a design team has been put together consisting of government officials, police, lawyers and community members who McNeil said have been empowered to create a restorative approach that will “transform public safety in Nova Scotia.”

A report last year[1] found Black people in Halifax were subjected to street checks six times as often as white people. Last October, Nova Scotia’s justice minister said he would permanently ban street checks[2] after a review concluded the practice is illegal.

Nova Scotia’s Public Prosecution Service unveiled a policy last year[3] to ensure Indigenous people are treated fairly in light of statistics showing Indigenous people make up less than three per cent of Nova Scotia’s population, but eight to 10 per cent of people in custody.

High-profile incidents in Nova Scotia include an arrest earlier this year by the Halifax Regional Police that left a Black woman, Santina Rao, with a broken wrist, concussion and bruising[4]. Charges against Rao were later dropped[5].

In February, a Black teenager was hurt when police arrested him outside a Bedford mall[6]. Police did not charge the boy with anything. Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team, the province’s police watchdog, is investigating the arrest. 

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