Trial of person arrested on August 18, 2021 protest against homeless evictions to begin May 2nd


May 1, 2023

On May 2, 2023, the trial of Natasha Danais, who was arrested in Halifax at the Old Memorial Library park during a protest against the August 18, 2021 forced evictions of homeless encampments, will begin at the Halifax Provincial Court at 9:30am. Hundreds showed up to the Old Memorial Library park on August 18, 2021 to peacefully express concern and outrage at the eviction of homeless people during an increasingly worsening homelessness crisis.

The evictions and police conduct at the protest faced widespread public scrutiny, due to the forced removal of homeless people from municipal parks when there were no housing alternatives, and due the use of violence against community members who showed up to express opposition to the violation of the rights and dignity of homeless people.

As was revealed at a Halifax Regional Counsel meeting on April 25, 2023, the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners is embarking on an independent civilian review of oversight, governance, and policy aspects of the HRP’s handling of the August 18, 2021, protest. This was in response to a petition put forth by the East Coast Prison Justice Society, where over 4,000 people signed to call for an independent review of police conduct on August 18, 2021. The fact that such a review is going forward shows the significance of public opposition to police conduct on that day.

At the trial of Natasha Danais, police conduct will be an issue, specifically excessive use of force, a long delay in the right to counsel, and mistreatment while in custody. These issues will be raised as part of arguments to stay proceedings.

Police conduct against participants at the protest that members of the public reported included indiscriminate use of pepper spray – including against a child – police concealing their identity by not wearing badges, bicycle-wielding police officers using their vehicles to strike people, and use of kicks, punches, tackles, and bodychecks that resulted in numerous injuries to community members, as well as unnecessary escalation as a whole. There were also widespread concerns that those targeted for arrests were predominantly racialized, and LGBTQ+. Many were left traumatized.

The credibility of the justice system depends on public confidence in its administration. This includes the public’s confidence in the actions and decisions of police, courts, and prosecutors. If the public is of the view that substantial police misconduct is being justified or excused during the course of arrests, particularly if the charges are of lesser seriousness, then the public will lose confidence in the justice system. If conduct of police in a particular event is part of a systemic concern, it is even more important for the justice system to respond to address it.

Thousands of members of the public have made clear that they are concerned about how police in Halifax respond to homelessness and to those exercising their rights to protest.

Currently, the public confidence in police is low in Nova Scotia. The Nova Scotia Mass Casualty Commission final report revealed that public trust has eroded in police as a whole, not just against the RCMP. In the Halifax context, the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners Define Defunding Police subcommittee released a report titled, “Defunding the Police: defining the way forward for HRM” revealed widespread lack of confidence in policing in the HRM, notably by Black and other targeted communities.

There will be media availability at 8:45 am on Tuesday May 2 in front of the Halifax Provincial Court.


Asaf Rashid, counsel for Natasha Danais

Phone: 902-919-5769


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