VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Activists who have fought to end police street checks in Vancouver say Wednesday’s unanimous council motion to ban them is a small step towards ending racial profiling.
The Vancouver Police Board has final authority and is to vote to abolish street checks in September.
Lama Mugabo, Hogan’s Alley Society member and community organizer, said he’s optimistic and that there’s still a long way to go.
“It’s the combination of a long struggle. As you know, being Black in Canada, we’ve been saying this for years and it fell on deaf ears,” Mugabo added.
Close to 70 organizations across B.C. — including the Union of BC Indian chiefs, Black Lives Matter-Vancouver, and the BC Civil Liberties Association — are calling for a complete ban.
Join us! 73 organisations are calling for an immediate ban of police street checks. Follow the links below to read our full letter and to sign the petition. #HAS #HogansAlley #Petitionhttps://t.co/5AokNKJb38https://t.co/zPUHjxy6rf pic.twitter.com/lg6FoGRMcm
— Hogan’s Alley Society (@hogans_alley) July 8, 2020
Mugabo said for five years he’s been vocal about how he feels police street checks are discriminatory as he’s seen countless people being stopped for no reason at all.
“It is racial profiling because when you walk down the street, a police officer sees you and says, what’s this Black man doing? He must be up to no good.”
Latoya Farrell, policy lawyer at the BC Civil Liberties Association, said the campaign to end street checks hits home, having personal experiences of targeted police harassment.
“I think about my parents and their experiences coming to Canada and interacting with police, and I think about my experiences and my older brother’s experiences, these are generations of stories at this point,” Farrell said. “There’s still a lot of work to do.”
Meanwhile, Harsha Walia, BC Civil Liberties Association Executive Director, says in a tweet council’s motion also builds much-needed momentum in the fight to defund the police, which has garnered widespread support in recent months.
Ending street checks is concrete action toward dismantling
racist, specifically anti-Indigenous and anti-Black, police power and every day over-policing and criminalization by Vancouver’s beat enforcement team – an occupying force – in Vancouver’s DTES
— Harsha Walia (@HarshaWalia) July 23, 2020
“Street checks, which include wellness checks, are increasingly one of the justifications provided by VPD to justify their increased police budget,” said Walia.
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart put forward the motion and said on Twitter he’ll push the police board to support it.
Thank you council for supporting my motion to abolish street checks in Vancouver.
And thank you to all the speakers who shared their stories & supported this important change – especially Black, Indigenous & people of colour who are disproportionately impacted.#vanpoli pic.twitter.com/4ZqqE1uscO
— Kennedy Stewart (@kennedystewart) July 23, 2020
The Vancouver Police Department released data from 2018, which revealed that Indigenous and Black people were disproportionately stopped by police.
“This is discriminatory, it’s been shown across the country. Why there so much resistance, goes to show how big that mountain is, how much resistance there is to change and reimagining policing in our communities,” Farrell said.