Why the province wants the public's help to define 7 types of discrimination

The Nova Scotia government is developing an equity and anti-racism strategy that it says will be ready by July 2023.  (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
The Nova Scotia government is developing an equity and anti-racism strategy that it says will be ready by July 2023. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

The provincial government wants the help of Nova Scotians to define seven types of discrimination as it works to create a strategy by 2023 to combat systemic discrimination and racism.

Officials are holding virtual sessions over the next several weeks to receive input on defining the following terms: gender and sexuality-based discrimination, ableism, anti-Semitism, anti-Black racism, anti-Asian racism, anti-Indigenous racism, and Islamophobia.

"Once we have these defined, we're then able to … move forward in a different way because we both know exactly what it is that we are talking about here, which will then create, I think, more tangible work across government," DeRico Symonds told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Tuesday.

Listen to DeRico Symonds full interview:

Symonds, the senior executive advisor with the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives, said the goal of the sessions, and the act itself, is to make Nova Scotia a leader in addressing systemic racism, hate and inequity.

While he admits that many of the terms are already well defined, including on the government's own website, he said it shouldn't be up to provincial officials alone to sum up the experiences of Nova Scotians.

"We've proposed what these definitions are and we're going to go to community and say, 'What do you think about these definitions? Do you see yourself fitting in here? Are there any keywords that we're missing?'" he said.

Alvero Wiggins photo
Alvero Wiggins photo

The equity and anti-racism strategy comes out of Nova Scotia's Dismantling Racism and Hate Act, which was unanimously passed in the spring, but not before being criticized by some members of the legislature who said it failed to address feedback from the Black community.

In April, New Democrat MLA Suzy Hansen put forward several amendments to the bill that would have created a gender-affirming care advisory committee and further restrictions on police street checks, among other things.

All the amendments were voted down.

She said she is now left wondering why more public input is needed on terms such as anti-Black racism that are already well understood.

"Why are we continuing to burden people to do this work over and over again when, you know, they've already experienced this trauma, they've given you the information and they've asked you to put it in legislation," Hansen told Information Morning on Wednesday.

Jeorge Sadi/CBC
Jeorge Sadi/CBC

Hansen said she's also worried the equity and anti-racism strategy won't have the same transparency and accountability that a piece of legislation has.

"When it's legislated, there's an enforcement, and there's some teeth behind it if things aren't done properly, and if it isn't done in a way that's respectful," she said.

"If it's in a strategy, it's essentially left within the department or left in the hands of whoever is doing the work."

Listen to MLA Suzy Hansen's full interview:

Public input sessions run until Nov. 19

Symonds said the province settled on the list of seven terms after consulting with more than 2,000 Nova Scotians.

The current virtual sessions, which run until Nov. 19 via Zoom, will involve a presentation and question and answer period.

People will be able to provide feedback during the sessions or do so after the fact by going online or calling the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives. More information about the sessions can be found online.

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.