Nova Scotians Will Have More Time to File Police Complaints
In order to ensure the province’s justice system is more responsive to the needs of Nova Scotians, government is extending the timeframe for people to file complaints about municipal police.
Changes to the Police Act Regulations, which come into effect Jan. 15, 2021, will extend the timeframe for someone to file a complaint regarding a municipal police service from six to 12 months. The changes also grant the police complaints commissioner the authority to extend the timeframe if there are good reasons for doing so and it is not contrary to the public interest. These changes align with legislation governing RCMP which allow 12 months for people to bring forth complaints.
“It is important people have improved access to justice, including the same amount of time to file a complaint about police conduct, regardless of the police force that serves their community,” said Mark Furey, Attorney General and Minister of Justice. “This change directly responds to a need that was identified by the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner, the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners and Prof. Scot Wortley in his 2019 Halifax Street Checks report. A recent sexual assault victim’s experience with the complaints process also highlighted the need for change. We know that sometimes people, and often victims, require more time to decide if they want to bring a concern forward. This timeframe offers people greater flexibility.”
The Halifax Board of Police Commissioners is in full agreement with this decision. We asked the Justice minister to make this change so that our timelines for complaints would be consistent with the RCMP. This change also responds to community concerns with the six-month timeline for filing a complaint as outlined in Prof. Wortley’s report.
Carole McDougall, acting chair, Halifax Board of Police Commissioners
Increasing the time to file a complaint to one year is a positive change and one that I think will be welcomed by the public. While most complaints come in soon after the interaction with the police, there are times when this is not possible. Having more time to submit a complaint will help someone make the decision that is right for them.
Judith McPhee, police complaints commissioner
- the Nova Scotia Police Act provides oversight of municipal police forces and assigns the duties of the police complaints commissioner
- the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner investigates complaints by people alleging misconduct by municipal police officers. The office does not handle complaints against members of the RCMP
- in 2018, the commissioner received 197 complaints
- people may file a complaint directly with the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner, at the police agency or with the local board of police commissioners in the municipality in which the incident allegedly occurred
- this change responds to recommendation 4.11 in the Wortley Report
- process and complaint form for filing a complaint with the police complaints commissioner: https://novascotia.ca/opcc/filingAComplaint.htm
- Halifax Street Checks Report: https://humanrights.novascotia.ca/sites/default/files/editor-uploads/halifax_street_checks_report_march_2019_0.pdf