Members of the African Nova Scotian community say that systemic racism is an ongoing issue when it comes to interactions with police.
This month two individuals have gone public with their experiences, alleging they were racially profiled by police, something community activists say happens far too often.
“We experience racism every day, every day of the week,” says community activist Rocky Coward.
“No reasonable person could conclude, or should conclude these are isolated incidents. These are two that have come forward, probably there’s a lot of people who have been hurt by police that haven’t come forward.”
On Jan. 15, Santina Rao was shopping at Walmart with her two children when she alleges she was racially profiled and accused of “concealing items.”
Rao then says she was assaulted by police, tackled by officers and “aggressively punched in the head.” She says she received severe bruising from the incident.
After Rao went public, a former Halifax Regional Police officer came forward with his own experience that happened a week before.
“On my way home, nothing out of the ordinary, driving the speed limit and then shortly thereafter I was pulled over,” said Maurice Carvery.
Carvery called his initial interaction with the officer cordial, but says then three more police officers came to the scene, one with lights and sirens on. When he asked why, Carvery says he was threatened with arrest.
“It’s just become sort of a normal story,” said community advocate DeRico Symonds. “That’s where this is becoming dangerous for myself and as well for the community because its becoming somewhat normal that these interactions are okay.”
The two incidents come just months after Halifax Police Chief Dan Kinsella banned street checks and publicly apologized to the African Nova Scotian community.
Symonds says while the apology was a great step forward, action is what’s needed.
“The community is saying the apology is not really holding much weight unless action is going to happen from these incidents.”
While Kinsella has also publicly said he will personally look into any and all complaints, the community is asking for more transparency.
“We don’t know what that looks like,” said DeRico. “Maybe he is following up, maybe it’s internal, but the public needs to see some sort of action in order to change the perspective of perception that nothing is happening.”
Meanwhile, Coward says the chief’s response to the Rao incident itself is telling, with no plans to drop charges against Rao.
“It would seem that while they changed police chiefs, the culture of racial discrimination and systemic discrimination remains firmly in tact,” he said.
Global News requested an interview with Kinsella to respond to concerns, but he was not available. Staff have said they are working to set something up “in a few weeks.”
DeRico says it’s important for police to take their concerns seriously. He would like to a see the community given the chance to play a lead role in what the process is moving forward.
“Police are losing credibility and people are just sort of dismissing them completely,” said Symonds. “I don’t want to say all police are bad, because they’re not, but certainly we have history to show there is an issue.”
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