An African Nova Scotian candidate in the upcoming provincial election says she won’t be stopped after one of her election signs was burned to the ground.
In a Facebook post, Tamara Tynes Powell, Liberal candidate for Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River, said she was “so sad” to see one of her signs “vandalized and stepped on.”
“But hate can not stop hate,” her post continued. “Only love can stop hate. I love my community and I will not stop. I will be a part of the change and solution, not part of the problem.”
The damaged sign at the corner of Ford and Robie streets in Truro was initially found early Sunday morning by Lenore Zann, the Liberal MP for Cumberland-Colchester and the former NDP MLA for the electoral district.
Zann said in a Facebook post that she came across the “extremely upsetting sight” around 1:30 a.m.
“The large fence posts that were holding it up had been dragged out of the ground and the sign dragged about 5 feet where it had been CHOPPED UP and SET ON FIRE,” the post said. “We could still smell the smoke.”
Nearby signs for the Progressive Conservative and Green candidates in Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River were untouched.
“I’m totally dismayed and disappointed that ANYBODY would wilfully do something like this to ANYONE’s signs — of ANY PARTY — and in all my 12 years elected for office (four campaigns) having had signs stolen, and/or defaced by misogynistic slurs I have NEVER seen anything as truly HATEFUL as this,” the post said.
“What message is this supposed to send to the Black community and diverse young women who take the challenge to run for office???!!”
Dave Ritcey, the Progressive Conservative MLA for that riding, denounced the vandalism in a statement posted to his Facebook account Sunday night.
“I am saddened and deeply concerned by the unacceptable vandalism of Tamara Tynes Powell’s election sign,” he said.
“There is no place for this kind of senseless destruction during a campaign. I have reached out to Ms. Tynes Powell to express my anger that anyone would choose to take such unnecessary action.
“Despite our political differences, we are united against hate, vandalism and violence,” he added.
Ritcey said in his post that he is calling on all elected officials to “refrain from unfounded accusations on social media that inflame an already terrible situation.”
In a release, the Truro Police Service said it was investigating the damage done to Tynes Powell’s sign. “If anyone has any information that could lead to the arrest of the person(s) responsible we would like to know,” it said.
Anyone with information can contact the police service or Crime Stoppers.
‘We have to stand and fight’
The grassy area where the damaged sign was located also features a sign honouring the descendants of Black Loyalists and Black refugees.
In an interview, Truro councillor and deputy mayor Wayne Talbot said the situation was “very disturbing.”
As an African Nova Scotian politician, he said he has faced racism both in public office and while growing up in Truro.
“I remember not being able to get a haircut, not being able to go to the pool hall,” he said.
“We’ve made progress, and we worked hard and we are engaged in discussions, but there is a history there. So am I surprised that someone would do something like that? No, I’m not.”
Talbot worried the “cowardly” action might prevent other diverse candidates from entering politics in the future.
“We have to stand and fight. It’s tough enough to put yourself on there and to offer to enter public service,” he said.
“And then to have this added nonsense piled on top of all the other hard work you have to do … it makes it very discouraging and it causes many good people not to put their name forward.”
He said Truro council is “strongly condemning” this action.
Party leaders respond
During a campaign event in Halifax Monday, Liberal Leader Iain Rankin expressed disappointment in what happened and said it illustrated the challenges faced by people of different backgrounds who step forward as candidates.
“I don’t think it’s a reflection of the majority of the population of Nova Scotia, but unfortunately there are issues in this province,” Rankin said. “I’m committed to tackling systemic racism in all of its forms.”
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston said he was disgusted, adding that there is no place for hate in the political system or in society. He agreed that what happened to Tynes Powell’s sign is an example of the kind of incidents that make it more difficult to recruit racialized candidates.
“I think this is something that will give a lot of people (potential candidates) pause for thought and that’s unfortunate,” Houston said. “My message to them is it matters who we elect. It matters that we have diverse voices at the table.”
The Liberals, Tories and NDP have put forward a total of 10 Back candidates ahead of Wednesday’s nomination deadline. Three are running in Preston, located east of Halifax, which is one of four ridings added by the government last year as a way to increase the participation and political representation of Acadians and African Nova Scotians.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that a Green Party candidate’s sign in the area was not vandalized, in addition to the Progressive Conservative candidate’s sign.
— With files from The Canadian Press