On Tuesday, Nova Scotia’s Premier formally acknowledged and apologized for years of systemic racism, particularly within the justice system.
“It’s now time for fundamental change,” said Stephen McNeil on Tuesday.
On Thursday McNeil defended his apology, saying he wasn’t imposing a solution, despite criticism from the community he was addressing, many of whom said they were blindsided by the announcement which included a team to redesign the province’s approach to public safety.
The team is made up of individuals from government, public safety and both the Indigenous and African Nova Scotian communities.
In the African Nova Scotian community, the announcement has created feelings of anger, confusion and frustration.
“How can you talk about any sort of restorative inquiry when it begins with people being marginalized?” asked activist El Jones on Tuesday.
“For the province and Premier to announce this without having a legitimacy that is informed by broad consultation with the African Nova Scotian community is actually an act of anti-Black racism,” said social worker Robert Wright a day after the announcement.
But the Premier defended his government’s decision to create the design team.
“One of the criticisms towards the government has always been that we impose a solution. This is just the opposite,” McNeil said on Thursday.
“It’s actually allowing the design team to go out and engage with community, the very thing people have asked for.”
Despite the vocal concerns made since the announcement, the premier says many support the initiative.
“We overwhelmingly have had support from the African Nova Scotia community in this process,” he said.
For those who have expressed disappointment in the approach so far, Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs Tony Ince asks for patience.
“I’d ask them to give us a chance to begin the work and allow us to get out there and consult them and get their input.”
But opposition parties say they aren’t surprised by some of the backlash aimed at the government, noting that they have already received input from the community and should consider acting on that instead.
“The Decade of People of African Descent has already put on the table the proposal for an African Justice Institute, the Decade already has on the table a proposal for the collection of race-based data that are relative to health outcomes,” said NDP Leader Gary Burrill.
There’s been a lot of previous reports, a lot of previous recommendations that haven’t been acted on,” said Brad Johns, PC MLA for Kings North.
“And here we are with another group that’s going to be struck and come back with recommendations and that’s going to take another year and a half.”