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Premier defends picking white man as minister of African Nova Scotian affairs

Click to play video: 'African Nova Scotian community concerned over appointment of new minister' African Nova Scotian community concerned over appointment of new minister
WATCH: With no African Nova Scotian members of caucus in the Progressive Conservative Party, Premier Tim Houston appointed a white man to be the new minister of African Nova Scotian affairs. – Sep 1, 2021

Nova Scotia’s new premier is sticking by his decision to name a white member of his caucus as the new minister responsible for African Nova Scotian affairs and the Office of Anti-Racism Initiatives.

Progressive Conservative veteran member Pat Dunn was named to the posts, and he was sworn into office during a ceremony Tuesday in Halifax.

There were no Black Tory candidates among the party’s 31 members who won ridings in the Aug. 17 provincial election.

Read more: N.S. Premier Tim Houston and 18 ministers — including 7 women — sworn into office

Houston said Tuesday he considered choosing someone outside the Tory caucus to represent African Nova Scotians, but he felt democracy “works best” when people who are elected are put into positions of responsibility.

The premier stood by his position today during a news conference about health-care reform.

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Houston said despite criticism on social media calling his decision “tone deaf,” his party ran a diverse slate but none of the Tory’s three Black candidates were elected.

He said he is making a commitment that the African Nova Scotian community will be heard by his government, adding that “the buck stops with me” on the issue.

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Angela Simmonds reflects on election win – Sep 1, 2021

“I understand the emotions of it but it (the decision) shouldn’t be interpreted as not being concerned about listening to the community,” Houston said.

Speaking to Global News Morning Halifax, newly-elected Liberal MLA Angela Simmonds said she thought Houston should have taken on the portfolio himself.

“I think that would have said a lot. And really would have showed community that although we may not wake up this morning and see ourselves, he is listening and it matters to him,” said Simmonds, who is representing Preston, a historically Black community.

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Carolann Wright, who is social chair of the African United Baptist Association, said there was not enough engagement prior to making the appointment.

“To have these appointments, it means that the government wasn’t really in tune,” she said.

“The hard work that has been done over the last ten years, the last decade needs to be rolled forward not rolled back. So right now today, it looks like were rolling back.”

According to the African Nova Scotian Affairs website, there are 50 African Nova Scotian communities and nearly 21,000 people of African descent call the province home.

— With files from Amber Fryday and Rebecca Lau 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 1, 2021.

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