A veteran Halifax Regional Police officer claims he has been passed over for promotions, despite having the necessary skills, because of his skin colour.

Const. Charles Bruce, an African Nova Scotian who has spent 16 years with the force, announced yesterday he has filed a human rights complaint against both the local police force and the municipality. He joins Sgt. Robyn Atwell and former police officer Lewis Cain in filing complaints with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission based on race.

All three allege that systemic racism continues to poison Halifax Regional Police.


“It’s not all great within the police department,” Bruce, who received HRP’s investigator of the year award in 2001, told a room full of reporters at the Halifax North Memorial Public Library on Gottingen Street.

Bruce said he felt “singled out” when he was forced to move from the force’s drug unit, a job he enjoyed, to the major crime division, while white officers with less experience were allowed to stay behind. He said he later applied to both the K9 division and the SWAT team, but was again turned down in favour of junior officers.

“What we’re asking for, folks, is a level playing field,” he said, explaining the most qualified person should get the position regardless of race, gender or age.

Bruce said he feels violence is happening within the police department, pointing to an instance when a supervisor kicked out his chair, propelling him forward into the table. “It was a sheer humiliation.”

Halifax lawyer Rocky Jones said yesterday it has taken incredible courage for Bruce, Atwell and Cain to come forward with their stories of discrimination.

“There is something extremely wrong in the Halifax police department, and in Halifax in general,” Jones said. “We, of course, need a safer city and it’s not going to be safe if our police officers, who are protecting us, are themselves saying ‘we’re the victims of racism.’ ”

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