Nova Scotia's minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs is calling for patience from people unhappy with the initial details about a process to overhaul the justice system and address systemic racism in the province.
Earlier this week, Premier Stephen McNeil issued a public apology for years of systemic racism and a system that has failed to provide equal service and justice to people who are Black and Indigenous. Along with the apology, the premier announced a design team that will lead the effort to restructure the system.
While many people welcomed the news, others expressed concern about the lack of consultation with Black community groups ahead of time or consideration for policy proposals and ideas submitted in the past by people and groups pushing for change. Some people have said they won't participate in the process and several groups are planning a protest this weekend.
"I'd ask them to slow down and be calm," African Nova Scotian Affairs Minister Tony Ince told reporters following a cabinet meeting Thursday.
"I'd ask them to give us a chance to begin the work and to allow us to get out there and consult with them and get their input."
McNeil and Ince both said Thursday that the announcement of the design team represented only the very first step in the process, and that now the real work begins. That work includes considering suggestions previously made by community groups, said McNeil.
The premier said the process would develop and evolve similar to what was used with the Home for Colored Children restorative approach.
"It wasn't sitting in a board room in Halifax," said McNeil.
"The design team and final committee were out actually in communities engaged, talked directly to members of their community to get their input and that's exactly what will happen this time."
Ince said he understands why some people are unhappy and thinks their frustrations are at least partly rooted in a mistrust for the system and government in general after years of inaction, despite multiple reports that have drawn attention to racial inequalities within all levels of the justice system, as well as in the education and health-care systems.
"I do believe there has been a history of things not moving forward when the community has [raised issues]," he said.
But Ince also said it's clear to him, based on his time in government since 2013, that there is a recognition of the problem, that people's concerns are being heard and that results will follow.
"For the first time in my life in this province, I see us actually moving in a direction with some concrete actions," he said.
The minister said the suggestion that previous submissions to government have been disregarded is inaccurate because he believes they helped push things to this point and will become a part of what grows from the design team's work.
"People have to be patient, work with us, consult with us. Let us hear your voice and we'll take those concerns and we will add that to everything that we are trying to improve."
The design team's work is expected to take up to 18 months and McNeil said they would have about $1.2 million to go toward the effort.
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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