Kasari Govender, British Columbia’s human rights commissioner, is seen in an undated handout photo. She says cutting police officer numbers where possible and using the money saved to build affordable housing should be part of a legislature’s committee’s deliberations to change the Police Act, including addressing systemic racism in policing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-B.C. Human Rights Commission, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Kasari Govender, British Columbia’s human rights commissioner, is seen in an undated handout photo. She says cutting police officer numbers where possible and using the money saved to build affordable housing should be part of a legislature’s committee’s deliberations to change the Police Act, including addressing systemic racism in policing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-B.C. Human Rights Commission, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Cut police, build affordable housing instead, says B.C. human rights commissioner

Homeless, Indigenous Peoples and those living in poverty have far more interactions with police, says Kasari Govender

The all-party committee tasked with reviewing British Columbia’s Police Act should consider deploying fewer police officers and using the money saved to build affordable housing, says the province’s human rights commissioner.

The fight against systemic racism in policing should also prompt changes to both the Police Act and the Human Rights Code to ensure protection of those most vulnerable to discrimination, Kasari Govender said Thursday.

Govender told the all-party committee appointed to review the 45-year-old act that race-based data should be collected to help eliminate systemic racism in policing.

She urged the committee to re-examine the role of police in making communities safer, especially in areas where poverty, addiction and homelessness are prevalent.

“I recommend that police should be de-tasked where possible, and critically the funds that would otherwise go to policing be put towards infrastructure and services that create safer communities,” Govender said. “To, for example, affordable housing, with appropriate supports for British Columbians with mental health problems, addictions and other needs that make them vulnerable.”

She said the homeless, Indigenous Peoples and those living in poverty have far more interactions with police, which should prompt the committee to recommend amendments to the Human Rights Code to give those people more protection and access to justice when dealing with officers.

“Adding social conditions to the code would provide another accountability mechanism for those who believe they’ve been discriminated against by the police, because they are living in poverty, including those who are homeless,” Govender said.

She said she will provide the committee with written recommendations on the issue of street checks by police, but called the practice of stopping people for limited cause harmful.

“Street checks can and do result in harm to Indigenous, Black and low-income individuals in communities,” Govender said. “Street checks contribute to the overpolicing and disproportionate criminalization of those groups.”

In October 2019, the Nova Scotia government issued a provincewide moratorium on street checks due to the discriminatory impact on Black Nova Scotians, she said.

“Street checks take a toll on a person’s physical and mental health and can impact their ability to pursue employment and educational opportunities,” said Govender.

She said amending the act to ensure all police agencies collect, analyze and disclose race-based data will support efforts to end systemic racism in policing.

“The data will assist us in preventing and monitoring systemic discrimination as well as providing much-needed transparency for the system,” Govender said.

NDP legislature member Rachna Singh called Govender’s presentation “extremely powerful.”

The special committee was formed last July to make recommendations to the legislative assembly on modernizing the Police Act by considering the role of police in complex social issues, including mental health and addictions.

It is also expected to examine the scope of systemic racism within provincial police agencies and to suggest measures to ensure the act is consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Anyone with information is asked to call Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345 or contact Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-8477 or submitting a tip online at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com.
Argument about physical distancing leads to stabbing in Nanaimo

Incident happened Wednesday, suspect was arrested soon after on Gabriola Island

Submissions are open for Vancouver Island Regional Library’s new online arts and literature magazine, ‘Sea and Cedar.’ (Bulletin file photo)
Submissions sought for library’s new digital arts and literature publication

‘Sea and Cedar’ magazine an initiative of Nanaimo Harbourfront Library

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools. (News Bulletin photo)
Bear seen at Park Avenue Elementary School field in Nanaimo

Students being advised to walk in groups and avoid the bushes

A battery electric-hybrid ferry, pictured here, is expected to make its way to Vancouver Island in late 2021, says B.C. Ferries. (Submitted photo)
Hybrid ferry for Gabriola-Nanaimo route launches in shipyard in Europe

Two hybrid vessels to replace MV Quinsam by early 2022, says B.C. Ferries

Vancouver Island Symphony conductor Pierre Simard is releasing his new synthwave album ‘Plandemic’ on March 5. (Photo courtesy Olivia Simard)
Vancouver Island Symphony conductor releasing side-project EP of electronic music

Pierre Simard, recording as Plan Omega, presents ‘Plandemic’

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

A BC Ferries worker out of Swartz Bay has tested positive for COVID-19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Swartz Bay ferry worker confirmed to have COVID-19

Employees in direct contact with worker now isolating

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Nanaimo’s Joanne Secord is a quarterfinalist in Inked Magazine’s Cover Model Search contest. (Janayh Wright Photography)
50-year-old Nanaimo mom hopes her tattoos will earn her a magazine cover shoot

Joanne Secord on cusp of semifinals in Inked Magazine contest

Nanaimo Courthouse. (News Bulletin file photo)
Motorist sentenced to two years for dangerous driving causing death on Gabriola Island

William Goosman pleaded guilty last fall in connection with incident that killed Jay Dearman

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

“Support your city” reads a piece of graffiti outside the Ministry of Finance office. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Slew of anti-bylaw graffiti ‘unacceptable’ says Victoria mayor, police

Downtown businesses, bylaw office and Ministry of Finance vandalized Wednesday morning

Most Read