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Stephen McNeil ‘not opposed to having conversation’ about apology to African Nova Scotians

WATCH: As a coalition of African Nova Scotian calls on all levels of government to act on a UN report on slavery in Canada the province’s premier has yet to rule out apologizing for slavery. Marieke Walsh has more.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says he hasn’t ruled out apologizing to African Nova Scotians for historic wrongs and racism the community has faced.

“That’s not one of the issues that’s been brought to me but I’m not opposed to having a conversation with people about it,” McNeil said Tuesday.

In late September, the United Nations released a report slamming Canada for “systemic racism” against African Canadians and specifically called out Nova Scotia for the “deplorable” socioeconomic conditions of African Nova Scotian communities across the province.

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

The report gave dozens of recommendations to the federal and provincial governments. Included in those was a call for an apology and possible reparations to “African Canadians for enslavement and historical injustices.”

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The African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent Coalition issued 11 recommendations based on the report, including possible reparations for African Nova Scotians. One of the coalition’s members, Robert Wright, said the first step to many of the recommendations is an apology from all levels of government.

Wright said the apology could recognize the “history of systemic discrimination, marginalization, even enslavement.” Adding that it would be symbolic but also lay the groundwork for more change.

READ MORE: African Nova Scotian coalition asking Province to review UN report, end street checks

Nova Scotia Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard said without an apology, making headway on the other recommendations and tackling systemic racism would be difficult.

She said the apology would be an “affirmation” and show the government is taking responsibility.

“From that I believe some other positive change initiatives will happen,” she said. “The change initiatives cannot really happen without an apology.”

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READ MORE: UN report on racism validates African Nova Scotian experience: Senator

McNeil said the government is reviewing the dozens of the recommendations in the report, that the United Nations working group said would “combat all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, Afrophobia and related intolerance.”

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In an emailed statement, the federal government said it is reviewing the report’s recommendations.

“It is currently too early to discuss specifics,” Canadian Heritage spokesperson Natalie Huneault said.

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