October 17th, 2019

NDP introduces legislation to create African Nova Scotia Justice Institute

HALIFAX - Working closely with local organizations, the NDP will table legislation today to create a community-led, independent African Nova Scotia Justice Institute, recognizing that African Nova Scotians are overrepresented in the justice system and in corrections facilities.

"Nova Scotia’s current criminal justice system disproportionately targets, criminalizes and incarcerates the African Nova Scotian Community, especially males, and the community has been and is still negatively affected,” said Vanessa Fells, Program Coordinator, African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent. “This traumatically negative relationship with Nova Scotia’s criminal justice system is rooted in Nova Scotia’s history of slavery and segregation and this legacy continues to shape access to power, resources and opportunities for African Nova Scotians today. In order to address the issue of systemic anti-black racism it is important to establish a community-operated African Nova Scotian Justice Institute."

Data received through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the NDP Caucus shows that 13 per cent of people incarcerated in provincial prisons are Black, compared to less than three per cent of the population.

The justice institute could resemble the Mi’kmaq Legal Support Network and act as an umbrella for several services including, for example, court workers, restorative justice, human rights advocacy, legal defence, youth and crime prevention programming, mental health support, and cultural impact services. The details of the Institute would be determined through community consultation.

“For decades, members of the African Nova Scotian community have been drawing attention to the many ways that Black people are both over-represented and under-serviced in our justice system,” said Susan Leblanc, NDP African Nova Scotian Affairs Spokesperson. “it’s time for decision-makers, especially those of us who are white, to start listening to what African Nova Scotians are saying and provide resources to the Black community. An independent, community-operated African Nova Scotian Justice Institute is a good start.”

The NDP will also table petitions today in support of the community call to ban street checks.