Statement from the NSLA Equity and Racial Diversity Committee on Halifax Street Checks Report by Dr. Scot Wortley

The Equity and Racial Diversity Committee (ERDC) on behalf of Nova Scotia Legal Aid (NSLA) welcomes the report of Dr. Scot Wortley on Halifax street checks. The profound results show that African Nova Scotian males are grossly over-represented in the street check data. Dr. Wortley in summarizing his findings, stated as follows:

Personally, after years of examining these issues, I believe that only a small proportion of the racial disparity in police checks can be explained by overt, malicious racism. Although the negative impact of a few “bad apples” cannot be completely discounted, I believe that most police officers in Halifax, and other Canadian cities, are professionals who try to conduct themselves in an objective manner. They certainly do not consider themselves racist and thus feel deeply insulted when accused of racial bias or profiling. However, I do think that implicit or unconscious bias can play a role in who the police “feel” are suspicious and thus deserving of police attention (including street checks).  I also feel that the police – like other segments of society – engage in forms of “statistical discrimination” that can have a profound impact on policing outcomes. Much like the actuarial reasoning practices employed by insurance companies, police engage in forms of criminal profiling that target the usual suspects – the poor, the young, men, racial minorities. These forms of informal risk assessment can directly contribute to the overrepresentation of young Black men in street check statistics. Finally, we must also explore the impact of institutional forms of racism – including police deployment practices – that can have a hugely disproportionate impact on Black and other minority communities.

Dr. Wortley in his recommendations, stated as follows,

Street checks should not be conducted solely on the basis of a civilian’s personal characteristics including race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation or combination thereof. Police officers should not engage in actuarial discrimination and stop, detain and document civilians because their demographic profile is consistent with criminal profiles derived from aggregate crime statistics. Decisions must be based on individual level, not group-level suspicions. Group-level suspicions are consistent with the concept of racial profiling. The policy should also explicitly state that street checks should not be conducted simply because a civilian is observed walking or driving late at night or is physically present in a high crime community. Street checks are also not justified when a civilian has exercised their legal rights and refused to answer police questions. Street checks are also not justified simply because an individual has exercised their legal rights and decided to end an interaction with a police officer. Rightful noncompliance with police requests or commands does not provide the legal justification for increased police suspicion or street checks. Finally, the regulation should explicitly state that officers should refrain from investigatory police stops and/or street checks based on a hunch or intuition that a person may be involved in criminal activity.

NSLA affirms that street checks, or any form of police-civilian interaction, including police stops, must be within the legal parameters set out in the Nova Scotia Human Rights Code, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, legislation and the common law.

We are here to assist Nova Scotians by protecting their rights and freedoms and ensuring a fair hearing in a court of law or before a tribunal. In keeping with our Strategic Plan, NSLA remains committed to enhancing access to justice for historically disadvantaged Nova Scotians. In meeting that commitment, we recognize the over-representation of African Nova Scotians in the criminal justice and child protection systems.  We will continue to provide culturally responsive service by educating our staff on these issues and by bringing cultural impact to the forefront on matters before the Court.

We want to work in collaboration with the African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent (ANSDPAD) Coalition with the goal of addressing systemic issues, including overcoming any barriers to access to justice. On behalf of our clients, NSLA will be proactive in engaging the Nova Scotia Government with an aim to be included as a stakeholder in discussions of how to resolve this issue moving forward.

It may be of assistance to read the article authored by Angela Simmonds entitled, “Racial Profiling: Know Your Rights” from our partners at the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia.

2019-2020 Business Plan

We are pleased to share the Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission’s 2019-2020 Business Plan:  NSLAC 2019-2020 Business Plan. The Business Plan can also be found in Legal Aid Publications under the About Us tab.

New Careers Page!

Are you looking join our team? Check out our new Careers page for current employment opportunities: https://www.nslegalaid.ca/careers/

Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association – YouTube Channel

The Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association has launched a YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/judgesincanadalesjugesaucanada) and below is an excerpt from their web page regarding the new educational videos available.

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A critical piece in maintaining, preserving and enhancing the Canadian system of justice is educating the public. This is also one of the objectives of the Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association (CSCJA). Ensuring that Canadians understand what to expect and how the system functions helps to promote effective and timely access to justice for all.

The Association has two teaching tools to share with the public and with educators:

The educational video Judges in Canada – What they do and how they do it is aimed at new and young Canadians as well as the public in general. The video illustrates what they are entitled to expect from Judges in Canadian Courts and covers principles fundamental to our Justice System; concepts such as Judicial independence and the Rule of Law.

Educational messages are embedded in our story about a young man, Weldon, who, while returning his child to her mother, becomes involved in a car accident. This results in criminal charges. The child’s mother then applies to the Family Court to seek restrictions on his contact with his child. Our narrator, The Honorable Judge Samuel Moreau of the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia, walks the viewer through our young man’s story.

In a courtroom scene, the Honorable Justice Deborah Gass of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia (Family Division) addresses Weldon’s fear about discrimination within the Justice System. The video identifies the citizen’s legal entitlement to a fair hearing according to the evidence and the law regardless of age, race, religion, sexual orientation or cultural origin.

(The Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association (CSCJA) represents approximately 1,300 judges, sitting and retired, who serve on the superior courts and courts of appeal of each province and territory, as well as on the Federal Court of Canada, the Federal Court of Appeal and the Tax Court of Canada.)

http://www.cscja.ca/judges/

http://www.cscja.ca

Judges in Canada

Home Heating Assistance

For help with heating costs this winter, the following programs are available to Nova Scotia families:

Nova Scotia Heating Assistance Rebate Program:

https://beta.novascotia.ca/apply-heating-assistance-rebate-heating-assistance-rebate-program

The Salvation Army – The Good Neighbour Energy Fund:

https://salvationarmy.ca/maritime/home/programs/gnef/?_ga=2.27593212.1508439806.1543591095-1295702875.1543591095

Continuing the Dialogue – National Self-Represented Litigants Project Report

In October 2018, 15 self-represented litigants (SRLs) and 45 justice system representatives took part in facilitated plenary discussions, small working group discussions focused on specific issues related to SRLs and the justice system, listened to panels presented by both SRLs and justice system insiders, and attended small networking events. Below is a copy of the Continuing the Dialogue: Final Event Report 2018.

Continuing the Dialogue Event Report 2018

East Preston resident pleased with successful migration of her land by Nova Scotia Legal Aid’s Dartmouth Land Title Office

Having clear title to your land is important in more ways than you may realize. Migrating your property to the new land registration system signifies clear title to the government. This, in turn, allows you to have a real say over your property. The following story shows the difference having clear title can make.

A long-time community member of East Preston and client of the Land Title Initiative, who wishes to remain anonymous, learned about the Initiative through a friend. Their friend attended one of the community meetings early this year. Concerned for the community, this individual told the client and others that everyone should apply to ensure clear title to their land. Heeding these words, the client applied to the Initiative.

The client has owned the property since 1997 and wished to have the property migrated into the new land registration system.  Ms. Shanisha Grant, the Staff Lawyer working in the Dartmouth Land Title Office, met with the client to explain the migration process and gather additional information about the property.  Once a historical search of the property was completed and reviewed with the client, the property was successfully migrated to the new land registration system.

The process was speedy, taking only three months to complete the property migration. Ms. Grant received the application this past July and successfully completed the migration by early September 2018.  When talking about her experience with the Initiative, the client stated, “I was very pleased with the experience I had working with the Initiative and the work that was done.” She also expressed having peace of mind, affirming that, “it feels good knowing that it’s done and that I can relax and not have to worry about it anymore.”

Having the land migrated certifies to the government that the client has clear title to her land. She is now free to obtain a mortgage, sell her property, or pass her property down to her children if she wishes.

If you reside, or own real property, in North Preston, East Preston, Cherry Brook/Lake Loon, Sunnyville, or Lincolnville, and have land title issues/need migration services, please contact Nova Scotia Legal Aid to apply for free legal services:

Inquiries can be sent to lti@nslegalaid.ca or by fax to 902-420-6561.

2017-18 Annual Report Summary Booklet

The Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission’s 2017-18 Annual Report Summary Booklet is now available on our website (About Us, Legal Aid Publications) and can be found here:  Annual Report Summary 2017-18

North Preston resident impressed by Land Title Initiative legal services delivered by Nova Scotia Legal Aid Staff Lawyer

In July 2018, Nova Scotia Legal Aid (NSLA) announced that we have commenced providing legal services pursuant to the new Land Title Initiative (LTI) in East Preston, North Preston, Cherry Brook/Lake Loon, Sunnyville and Lincolnville.  In collaboration with a number of government stakeholders, NSLA has been assisting land owners in these communities remove barriers to obtaining migration services and legal title to their land.  This is helping to address the unequal treatment that African Nova Scotians have traditionally faced.

Beazley Cain is one of these Nova Scotians.  Mr. Cain is a lifelong resident of North Preston.  He is an active community member who is happy that this initiative has begun.

Recently, Gordon Blackmore, who is the Staff Lawyer working in our Halifax Land Title Office, met with Mr. Cain to discuss the LTI and his experience with the program. Mr. Cain has two properties that require land titles work.  Mr. Blackmore assisted Mr. Cain by having the title certified, and migrated, for one of his properties.  The necessary legal work for Mr. Cain’s second property is in progress.  This property will require a Certificate of Title.


Gordon Blackmore

Mr. Cain first became aware of the LTI at a meeting at the North Preston Recreation Centre.  He was excited that something was finally being done to address these historic land claims issues. He did admit his initial skepticism because he remembered similar programs in the past.  He was also worried that something would derail the process.

Mr. Cain is happy with the personal service offered by NSLA, indicating he was impressed with our punctuality and professionalism.  He was pleased that we are able to meet him at a time and location that is convenient for him.  Above all, he is thrilled to have his own lawyer.  He said, “It feels good knowing I have someone to look to” (for help with the LTI process).

Mr. Cain said that the time is right for land title clarification.  He has children and wants to make sure that his children are left clear title to the family property when he dies.

The Dartmouth Land Title Office is also fully operational and a story on the success clients of that Office are also experiencing will be released in the near future.

If you reside, or own real property, in North Preston, East Preston, Cherry Brook/Lake Loom, Sunnyville, or Lincolnville, and have title issues/need migration services, please contact Nova Scotia Legal Aid to apply for free legal services:

Inquiries can be sent to lti@nslegalaid.ca or by fax to 902-420-6561.

2017-18 Annual Report

The Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission’s 2017-18 Annual Report is now available on our website and can be found here:  2017-18 Annual Report