HALIFAX — The commander of the Nova Scotia RCMP says his force’s planned apology to the province’s Black community for street checks should have occurred some time ago.
Assistant commissioner Dennis Daley says he has realized since taking office in late 2022 that the RCMP have a lot of work to do to rebuild trust with the province’s Black citizens.
The Mounties said Tuesday that they will issue a formal apology and followup action plan by next year, after they hold a series of 14 meetings with the Black community.
A provincially commissioned study released by criminologist Scot Wortley in March 2019 said the use of street checks by Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP targeted young Black men.
Street checks — now banned in Nova Scotia — are actions whereby police randomly stop people on the street to record their personal information.
The Halifax Regional Police chief offered a formal apology in November 2019 to the Black community for street checks and other injustices, but the RCMP didn’t immediately offer an apology of their own.
Rather, the force had said it would follow the recommendations of a national study by the Civilian Complaints and Review Commission for the RCMP, which called in 2021 for a series of reforms to better inform citizens of their right to refuse to comply with street checks.
Daley says he doesn’t know why the RCMP’s decision to wait for that report prevented them from apologizing earlier. He adds that members of the Black community have told him that while the apology is important, the actions the police take afterward are equally significant.
In a release on Tuesday, the RCMP said the apology would mention other interactions with police that may have had negative impacts on African Nova Scotians.
Daley says he expects discussions with community leaders to include ways that police engage with Black citizens, including during random traffic stops and when officers issue tickets.
The public inquiry’s final report into the 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia recommended “the RCMP adopt a policy of admitting its mistakes, accepting responsibility for them and ensuring that accountability mechanisms are in place for addressing its errors.”
Another recommendation in the report, which repeatedly notes the poor relationship between the Black community and the RCMP, is that the force consult with “community subject matter experts” to improve its policing.
While Daley said the recommendations weren’t what drove his approach to the apology, the plan for an apology and the community visits dovetails with the commission’s recommendations.
He said the next consultation will be held in the Halifax suburb of Hammonds Plains on Sept. 28.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 20, 2023.