The Liberal critic for equity and anti-racism initiatives says the Black community is worried about what will transpire after white men were appointed to the Department of African Nova Scotian Affairs' positions of minister and deputy minister.
"Honestly, it's fear. People are scared," said Angela Simmonds, the MLA for Preston. "Just with these actions, it speaks to not being heard."
On Thursday, Nova Scotia cabinet ministers received their new mandate letters, which lay out departmental priorities for the next four years.
The goals for Pat Dunn, the new minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs, include:
Advocating the interests of the Black Nova Scotian community.
Creating and promoting an integrated approach on matters related to Nova Scotia's Black community.
Representing the interests of Black Nova Scotians in intergovernmental matters and other initiatives and negotiations.
Developing and co-operating on communication strategies and public education to increase awareness of Black Nova Scotian culture, heritage and community issues.
But Simmonds said these statements are too vague, especially considering the misgivings about the department's leadership.
Dunn is also the minister responsible for the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives.
"This mandate letter reflects the direction of not only the minister, but the entire department. And it really kind of fell short of that," she said.
"It was really hollow. It didn't really build on any trust between communities anymore, and in particular, in the Black community."
Dunn said he wants to begin dialogue immediately.
"Our initial plan, of course, is to get out into the community, to reach out to many, many organizations that are across our province and have discussions with them," he said.
Simmonds said community doubts are not a personal reflection of Dunn.
"I look forward to meeting him and working with him," she said. "But it's because there's no one that is the reflection of the community, right? So we needed something on paper to show the commitment."
A coalition of Black Nova Scotian groups published a letter Tuesday saying Dunn's appointment as minister, and the dismissal of a Black deputy minister, was indicative of anti-Black racism and white supremacy.
'I'm here to listen,' says minister
Dunn said he's looking forward to meeting with the letter's authors sometime before the legislature sits, though no date has been set.
"I would like to meet these people here and hopefully I'll be able to give them a chance to see me and my expectations and my responsibilities working with that area's office," he said. "I'm here to listen, I'm here to learn, and I certainly want to help in any area that they're involved in."
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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