UN report slams Nova Scotia education system’s treatment of African Nova Scotians

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A United Nations working group has taken aim at the province for its treatment of African Nova Scotians saying that structural racism in the province has had lasting impacts. Marieke Walsh has been digging into the report’s findings and has this report – Sep 25, 2017

Three decades after Nova Scotia’s school systems were integrated, a UN report says “educational inequities’ between African Nova Scotians and other Nova Scotians remain unchanged.

The finding is part of a pan-Canadian report by a United Nations working group that looked at the experiences of African Canadians.

The report cites a 1994 report written by Nova Scotia’s Black Learners Advisory Committee and concludes that “systemic racism persists.”

“The socioeconomic conditions in the Black communities across the province remain deplorable,” finds the UN report.

“African Nova Scotians’ ability to access post-secondary education, especially in professional schools, remains very limited.”

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The UN report also draws from a 2009 provincial report calling on Nova Scotia to better track statistics on African Nova Scotians’ experiences in the education system. It suggests the province implement other recommendations from that report, which the government first responded to in 2010.

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The report, was presented by the UN’s Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent and is based on information gathered on a visit to Canada in October 2016. The group visited Halifax, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.

Nova Scotia’s experience expressed what the reports authors heard in other parts of the country the report says.

“It raises a very, very serious concern that I believe has to be examined closely,” Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission Director Christine Hanson said Monday.

“This report calls on governments of all levels to take a look at these issues that communities raised.”

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Minister ‘not surprised at all’ by report’s findings

Referencing his own experiences with racism, African Nova Scotian Affairs Minister Tony Ince said he’s “not surprised” by the report’s conclusions.

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“Not surprised at all, this is something that I’ve heard, the community have talked about, these are issues that have been long standing,” Ince said. “This report just basically highlights what most of the community is already aware of.”

Ince said he faced discrimination while trying to find an apartment in Halifax. Ultimately he said his wife, who has fairer skin, would go alone to view apartments because she could pass for white.

“This document gives me some resolve,” he said. “This is a document that I would urge all Nova Scotians to read.”

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The report points to the inquiry into Nova Scotia’s Home for Coloured Children as an example of the province getting it right. But in addition to the problems in the education system it also raised concerns around the long delays in giving African Nova Scotians legal land title and environmental racism.

It recommends Nova Scotia give “financial support” to people seeking to get legal title to land they have lived on for generations. In response, the government said in a news release that it would “announce new supports for people working to get legal title to their land” on Wednesday.

The Nova Scotia government provided land to black and white Loyalists, but the Crown didn’t provide land titles for black settlers, creating long-standing confusion over ownership in 13 predominantly black communities.

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The UN report also recommends all levels of government “seriously consider the concerns of African Nova Scotians and help to develop legislation on environmental issues affecting them.”

“Polluting industries and other environmentally hazardous activities are disproportionately situated near neighbourhoods where many people of African descent live, creating serious health risks for them,” the report finds.

It specifically suggests legislation similar to a bill tabled by the NDP in 2015. Called the Environmental Racism Prevention Act, the bill never made it to a second reading vote under the Liberal-controlled legislature.

-With files from the Canadian Press.