Black Nova Scotian groups blast naming white MLA to African Nova Scotian, anti-racism files

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Pat Dunn is the minister responsible for the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs and the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC - image credit)
Pat Dunn is the minister responsible for the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs and the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC - image credit)

A coalition of Black Nova Scotian organizations has sent a letter to Premier Tim Houston criticizing the provincial government for what it considers anti-Black racism and white supremacy after the appointment of white people to top positions in the Office of African-Nova Scotian Affairs.

"That's at the heart of it, that the community is really not standing, sitting or lying down for this," said Carolann Wright, chair of the African United Baptist Association's social action committee, and a co-signatory to the letter.

"This is a real slap in the face.... This action is not in our best interest, and that's what the letter conveys."

The letter, dated Sept.14, 2021, is also signed by the Association of Black Social Workers, the Health Association of African Canadians.

"Our organizations have received numerous calls of concern from community members. Our communities have felt re-traumatized, disrespected, disappointed and ignored by your actions," the letter says.

Black Family Meeting

The letter was drafted to reflect opinions gathered during an online "Black Family Meeting" of 200 Black Nova Scotians held on Sept. 9, identifying, "urgent concerns that require immediate action from our elected government."

Wright said participants ranged from teenagers to people in their 80s. She said everyone who participated was promised anonymity.

The letter specifically identifies the appointment of PC MLA Pat Dunn, who is white, as minister of African Nova-Scotian Affairs, along with the removal of Kesa Munroe-Anderson, who is Black, as deputy minister for the department.

"We're calling out the appointment of Pat Dunn and the dismissal Kesa Munroe-Anderson," Wright said.

"Having somebody that's non-Black in that position is definitely, definitely a problem. It's an egregious injustice."

She said the letter also "conveys the impact of the decision."

"To see one of our best and brightest be dismissed without really any reason or action other than political motivation, we need an explanation for that," Wright said.

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CBC

'An act of Anti-Black racism and White supremacy'

The letter continues: "Those in attendance spoke of the systemic racist approach to decision-making that was taken by our elected government and the lack of respect to our history and lived experience."

As Black people are a founding people of Nova Scotia: "Moving forward without our hard-won representation, our voices and contributions and valuing our distinct history, is an act of anti-Black racism and White supremacy," the letter says.

Wright said those words were chosen carefully.

"I think it speaks for itself, because the decision from the outset, and on the face of it for us, is anti-Black racism.... It's that Black people do not know what's good for them. So we're just going to put anybody in there to make decisions and to act on their behalf," she said.

"That is no longer appropriate. That is no longer relevant, and it's not the decision that the community wants to see," she said.

Wright says African Nova Scotians deserve to have representatives in government with a deep understanding of their history and experience.

"To be able to have conversations, to be able to talk about strategies, without going to, 'Once upon a time there was slavery.' We do not want to continue to do that," Wright said.

The letter insists that "people of African descent in Nova Scotia" should lead the process of solving this issue.

"These solutions must be heard by you, Premier Houston, prior to the Fall sitting of the legislature," the letter says.

"Therefore, we are calling for an immediate meeting with you."

Premier's response

In an email, Catherine Klimek, the premier's press secretary, said Houston is aware of the letter.

"The Premier has been clear that our government is serious about making positive progress on improving equity and addressing systemic racism in this province," Klimek said.

"The Premier and the Minister have said they will listen and learn from the community."

Klimek said a meeting will be arranged for Houston, Dunn and Wright before the legislature sits this fall.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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