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.

Just Posted

Gibraltar Mine has started calling back 34 workers laid off on April 27 because it has received its permit to reactive the Gibraltar East Pit. (Taseko Mines Ltd. photo)
Gibraltar Mine receives permit, calling back laid off employees

Mining has begun in the Gibraltar East pit

(RCMP logo)
RCMP investigating early morning assault in Williams Lake

An insecure firearm was located in a residence

Williams Lake City Council rejected a proposal Tuesday at its regular meeting for the city to host a junior A hockey team for the upcoming 2021/22 season. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Council rejects junior A hockey bid in Williams Lake

The proposal has been up for debate the past several months

The city of Williams Lake will help fund a position at Canadian Mental Health Association Cariboo Chilcotin Branch for mental health programs using some of the COVID safe restart grant the city received from the province. (City of Williams Lake photo)
City of Williams Lake allocates 35K to support mental health programs

The funding for CMHA coming from the COVID Safe Restart grant the city received

Speed reader data collected between March 1 and April 28, 2021 indicated 94.68 per cent of vehicles traveling through kept below or to the 50 km hour speed limit. (Angie Mindus file photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
City council agrees further speed restrictions not warranted for Westridge area of Williams Lake

Staff bases decision on speed reader data collected over six-week period

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

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

In this Monday, March 15, 2021 file photo a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is pictured in a pharmacy in Boulogne Billancourt, outside Paris. Questions remained Wednesday about the future of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in Canada, as Manitoba limited use of the shot and Ontario announced it planned to save an incoming shipment to use as second doses. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Christophe Ena, File
Questions remain about the future of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot in Canada

More than two million Canadians have received AstraZeneca and 17 have been confirmed to have VITT

A Mountie issued B.C. RCMP’s first ticket for non-essential travel May 1. (Black Press Media files)
Driver ticketed, told to ‘return to Lower Mainland immediately’ by Vancouver Island police

The motorist was originally pulled over for driving-related offences May 1

Children walk back to their classroom while wearing masks and physical distancing at St. Barnabas Catholic School in Scarborough, Ont., in October, 2020. A group of B.C. teachers has issued an open letter calling for the relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions for children in B.C. schools. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)
Group of B.C. teachers calls for easing of pandemic measures for students

Teacher group says ‘response to COVID is out of balance to the cost our youth are paying’

Adam Hamdan has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorist charges given temporary residence in Canada

Adam Hamdan had been facing deportation to Jordan, where he holds citizenship through his Palestinian parents

Lumber is shown in the back of a van in this recent image provided by the Saskatoon Police Service. The skyrocketing prices for lumber is fuelling a trend that has authorities across the country warning builders to keep their guard up. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Saskatoon Police Service-Const. Derek Chesney *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘It is a gold mine:’ Builders warned of rising lumber thefts across Canada

Many North American mills curtailed production temporarily earlier in 2020 because of COVID lockdowns

RCMP. (Black Press File)
Major Crimes called in after 2 bodies discovered on remote road near Penticton

A manhunt involving a police helicopter took place on May 10

Most Read