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Open letter calls on Premier Tim Houston to address concerns from African Nova Scotians

Click to play video: 'African Nova Scotian community concerned over appointment of new minister' African Nova Scotian community concerned over appointment of new minister
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

An open letter from the Association of Black Social Workers, the Health Association of African Canadians and the African United Baptist Association of Nova Scotia is calling on the premier to address concerns from the African Nova Scotian community.

Tim Houston has faced criticism for appointing a white man as the Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs, as well as for his removal of Dr. Kesa Munroe-Anderson, a Black woman who served as former deputy minister of communities, culture and heritage.

The letter, dated Tuesday, said the three organizations recently hosted a meeting for Nova Scotians of African descent to discuss these issues, as well as “subsequent egregious injustice within our elected government and the health system in Nova Scotia.”

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

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“Our organizations have received numerous calls of concern from community members,” it said. “Our communities have felt re-traumatized, disrespected, disappointed and ignored by your actions.”

The letter was signed by African United Baptist Association chair Carolann Wright, the Association of Black Social Workers past president Veronica Marsman, and the Health Association of African Canadians co-president Sharon Davis-Murdoch.

In an interview with Global News, Wright said the removal of Munroe-Anderson from her position and the appointment of Pat Dunn as Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs, is unacceptable and makes no sense.

“This is not acceptable. The community is not going to stand for it, having somebody go in the community and represent us, that doesn’t look like us … articulating our needs, wants and desires,” she said.

The letter to Houston detailed more than 200 people of all sorts of ages and backgrounds registered for the meeting, which aimed to discuss the impact of these changes and “move forward with solution-focused, strategic responses.”

“Those in attendance spoke of the systemic racist approach to decision-making that was taken by our elected government and the lack of respect to our history and lived experience,” it said.

Read more: 1st Black member of Nova Scotia Health board of directors was ‘stunned’ by dismissal

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“Black Nova Scotians are recognized and acknowledged as one of the Founding Peoples of Nova Scotia. Moving forward without our hard-won representation, our voices and contributions and valuing our distinct history, is an act of anti-Black racism and White supremacy.”

The letter called for an immediate meeting with Houston before the fall sitting of the Legislature.

“It is the people of African descent in Nova Scotia who, through our vision and self-determination, must lead the development of short-and long-term solutions to this injustice,” it said.

Province responds

In a statement, Catherine Klimek, the spokesperson for the premier’s office, said Houston is aware of the open letter.

“The Premier has been clear that our government is serious about making positive progress on improving equity and addressing systemic racism in this province,” the statement said.

“We see the work of African Nova Scotian Affairs and the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism initiatives, along with community and other partners, as a priority and we will continue to support it.”

The statement said they will listen and learn from the community and are open to hearing voices and ideas.

It said the office will arrange a meeting with the premier, the African Nova Scotian Affairs minister and Wright ahead of the sitting of the fall Legislature.

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Wright said while a date hasn’t been set for the meeting yet, the premier’s office did reach out to her.

The various groups are planning another meeting amongst themselves to set out their strategies for the conversation with the premier.

“We don’t go in there expecting anything. We just want to have the conversation,” she said.

“This is not about any one single individual. This is about a collective response to this.”

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