News release

Fair Treatment of African Nova Scotians, People of African Descent Enshrined in New Policy

Public Prosecution Service

A new comprehensive policy will guide Nova Scotia Crown attorneys in criminal prosecutions involving African Nova Scotians and people of African descent.

The Public Prosecution Service developed the policy – Fair Treatment of African Nova Scotians and People of African Descent in Criminal Prosecutions – largely in response to the overrepresentation of people from these communities in the criminal justice system.

“This policy is not just a set of guidelines. It’s a commitment to more transparency, fairness and justice for African Nova Scotians and an important step in dealing with overrepresentation,” said Rick Woodburn, K.C., acting Director of Public Prosecutions. “It provides our Crown attorneys with meaningful guidance at every step of a prosecution.”

The policy acknowledges the long history of Canadian slavery, dating back to 1713, its abolishment in 1833, and ongoing systemic anti-Black policies and practices, which resulted in significant socioeconomic inequalities that persist to this day.

It takes Crown attorneys through every step of a prosecution, beginning with pre-charge advice to police. When an accused person is identified as African Nova Scotian or a person of African descent, the Crown will review police disclosure for issues of racism and discrimination.

The 16-page policy also:

  • cites Nova Scotia’s Restorative Justice Program as an important way to reduce the number of Black people in custody
  • provides detailed guidance on Impact of Race and Culture Assessments, which present an accused’s background and unique circumstances
  • reminds Crown attorneys about challenging potential jurors at the selection stage for racial bias; they may also consent to a defence request to have the case heard by a judge alone instead of a jury, based on that
  • directs Crown attorneys to consult with their chief Crown in cases involving issues of racialized discrimination; they may also consult with the Director/Executive Lead of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Strategic Relations and experienced colleagues on the Equity and Diversity Committee.

The policy takes effect today, February 29. It is available at:


“Overrepresentation in our jails is an important issue. The policy is a tool to help ensure African Nova Scotians and people of African descent are treated fairly and equitably in any prosecution. Crown attorneys must be able to conduct culturally competent prosecutions and be able to recognize and address issues of racism and discrimination in their cases.”
Brad Johns, Attorney General and Minister of Justice