“I’ve had so many encounters being pulled over
with the police I don’t even remember them all…They check me out, they
come back and say ‘Here you go, have a good day,’” he said.
“I’m to the point where it’s so normal for me
to be pulled over that it doesn’t even register with me
anymore…Absolutely this is common. It definitely doesn’t surprise me.”
During one incident last year, Beals said he
was driving with a client when police pulled him over and initially said
he’d cut somebody off.
“An African Nova Scotian client was with me
and he was like ‘Watch him pull you over.’ And I was like, ‘No, he has
no reason to pull me over,’” Beals recalled.
“Anyhow, we get a bit further ahead and lo and
behold he was absolutely right. Police lights and sirens. I know I did
not cut anybody off…He (the officer) plugged in my license and
registration and came back and said have a good day.”
Beals said acknowledging how often this
happens to black people is a great first step. He’s now hoping it will
be seriously addressed.
Former Halifax poet laureate and activist El Jones said there’s a perception in Canada that this is more of an “American issue.”
Although the data isn’t surprising to members of the black community, she said it’s still good to have the numbers.
“Obviously black people are well aware that it
happens, and people have always had so-called anecdotal evidence. So I
guess in that sense it’s validating to have the statistics show what
we’ve lived and known,” Jones said.
“But it shouldn’t be surprising because people
have been attesting to these experiences. It really shouldn’t be
necessary in that sense to have data to validate that black people were
telling the truth and are telling the truth about these experiences, and
that these experiences happen in Halifax.”
Jones said educating people to recognize that racism is both structural and systemic is important.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to do with an
individual. You can be a good person, you can have black friends, you
can coach black kids in basketball after work and still go to work and
unconsciously perpetuate ideas that may have been driven into you,” she
“So you may not recognize that you’re stopping
young black men unfairly. I think we really need to address that idea
of unconscious bias and we need to address it without in that sense