Alleged racial work incident a chance for dialogue: Nova Scotia cabinet minister

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia's minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs says race relations are improving in the province, but there is still a lot of work to do.

Tony Ince made the comments Thursday after being asked about a young black man who was allegedly shot in the back with a nail gun on a construction site on Sept. 19.

Media reports have said the victim alleged he faced racism at the worksite, and suggested the nail gun incident that punctured his lung with a nearly nine-centimetre long framing nail was deliberate.

Activists have said they are planning an Oct. 19 protest outside Labour Department offices in Halifax over the incident.

Meanwhile, a 43-year-old Trenton, N.S., man is scheduled to appear in Pictou provincial court on Dec. 21.

Ince said he can't comment specifically on allegations the incident was racially motivated because it's before the courts.

"But I do know that there will be times where people will feel that an incident such as this could be racially motivated given past histories," he said.

Ince said he believes the province is moving in the right direction when it comes to race relations and attitudes.

"I've seen it over a number of years, however there is still a lot of work we have to do ... because you can't expect those types of mentalities and issues to be gone in a couple of years when they've been so prevalent for hundreds of years."

Ince said he believes there are workplaces standards to protect people against racist behaviour, although there may be the odd incident that "falls through the cracks."

When that happens, it's necessary to pull back and try to address any issues that linger, he said. "And try to educate those people who may not see it as an issue as to why one party might see it as an issue."

RCMP have said they were called while the victim was in hospital and began their investigation from there.

In a statement released Wednesday through lawyers, the property developer, PQ Properties Ltd., said it takes its employees' safety and well-being "very seriously."

"PQ Properties Ltd. has policies in place respecting workplace safety as well as harassment and bullying. We denounce any discriminatory behaviour of any kind in the strongest terms."

The company said it would have addressed a complaint immediately had there been one initially, and it is making arrangements to hire an outside consultant to conduct a workplace assessment to ensure that it is providing "a safe and secure working environment."

PQ Properties also said media coverage had resulted in threats made against the "principals" of the company. 

"We have been forced to shut down job sites due to ongoing threats and our employees have suffered as a result," the company said.

Shawn Wade Hynes of Trenton, N.S., faces a charge of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

The Canadian Press