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

School District 27 (SD27) issued notice Thursday, Feb. 25 of a COVID-19 exposure at Mountview Elementary School. (Angie Mindus photo)
School district reports positive COVID-19 case in Williams Lake elementary school

A letter went home to families of Mountview Elementary School

The City of Williams Lake is asking for public feedback on whether it should explore the opportunity to host a Greater Metro Hockey League team in Williams Lake. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
City of Williams Lake seeks feedback on hosting junior hockey league team

A league expansion application in Quesnel is also pending

A rainbow shining on Kelowna General Hospital on May 12, 2020 International Nurses Day. (Steve Wensley - Prime Light Media)
New COVID cases trending down in Interior Health

24 new cases reported Thursday, Feb. 25, death at Kelowna General Hospital

LADDER USED IN FIRE FIGHT: While smoke billows out of the second floor of the Maple Leaf Hotel, members of the Williams Lake Volunteer Fire Department fight to contain the blaze. The department was called out Tuesday morning to battle the blaze that wreaked havoc on the interior of the 57-year-old hotel. One man, Harold Hurst of Riske Creek, died in the fire. (Ernest Engemoen photo - Williams Lake Tribune, April 12, 1977)
FROM OUR ARCHIVES: Ladder used in fire fight

The department was called out Tuesday morning to battle the blaze

Provincial funding in the amount of $300,000 has been announced for the Cariboo Regional District’s plans to improve the Anahim Lake Airport runway. (CRD photo)
$300,000 provincial funding to fuel Anahim Lake Airport runway upgrade

The recovery grant is one of 38 announced to support jobs in rural communities

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

Vancouver International Women in Film Festival kicks off March 5.
Women in Film Festival features two B.C. filmmakers

The 16th annual festival kicks off March 5, 2021

Most Read