The issue of systemic racism was recently brought to light when MLA Angela Simmonds was the subject of racist remarks made by a political staffer in the Progressive Conservative government.
On Friday Premier Tim Houston confirmed he had fired a political staffer after being made aware of “racist” social media comments about a Liberal member of the legislature.
The incident prompted emotional responses from Black MLAs during the house sitting on Friday and Simmond’s colleague in the Liberal Party, Ali Duale, announced he would not sit in the legislative chamber until the PC government adopted the Dismantling Racism and Hate Act that Simmonds herself had tabled earlier in the fall sitting.
On Tuesday Duale returned to his seat after being invited by the premier to an all-party committee to produce legislation to address systemic racism in government. He announced he accepted the invitation in a statement that same day.
“In accepting this invitation, I am satisfied with this commitment and will take my seat today,” said Duale.
“I promise to continue work on behalf of all Nova Scotians in a place where their voices are often left unheard.”
NDP MLA Suzy Hansen says she also supports the all-party committee, adding she’s glad the government will be having conversations about racism.
“I’m going in fairly open-minded,” she said about her own role with the committee.
“I’m all about educating and making sure we’re looking at it from the proper lens … being able to talk about it candidly and coming to hopefully a consensus or conclusion to do the right thing.”
Premier Tim Houston said that while his party was already working on drafting legislation to tackle systemic racism it’s important to hear from other parties as well as community members.
“The thought process was let’s collaborate, let’s bring everyone together,” said Houston.
“We want to get it right, it’s an important time for Nova scotia and we want to get it right, so that’s our focus.”
The goal is to table the legislation during the spring sitting, but Houston also notes that it is something that will likely continue to be developed and changed over time as needed.