Halifax protest calls for better treatment for Black city workers

Click to play video: 'African Nova Scotian staff at Halifax Regional Municipality rally over treatment'
African Nova Scotian staff at Halifax Regional Municipality rally over treatment
WATCH: African Nova Scotian staff at Halifax Regional Municipality rally over treatment – Dec 16, 2022

Advocates gathered outside Halifax City Hall Friday afternoon in protest of the treatment of city workers of African descent.

“There seems to be, based on the workers of African descent, a two-tiered system that treats them differently and drastically, if you will, than people of European descent,” says advocate Raymond Sheppard. “And that has got to stop. This pain is real.”

Sheppard shared quotes at the rally from current city employees who wish to speak out but fear the loss of their jobs.

Among the concerns: they say they’re being stereotyped, singled out, bullied and disproportionately written up, all because of being persons of African descent.

“Why must they go through this on a continuous basis?” questions Sheppard.

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Activist Kate McDonald says workers have been raising these concerns for a very long time.

“I don’t think that people actually care,” McDonald says. “We’re arguing with people that are not invested in our best interest, and that is very painful.”

“I know we’re talking about HRM but the provincial, the municipal and the federal government needs to know that enough is enough and it needs to stop,” says attendee Primrose James.

In response to the calls for change, a statement from the municipality’s acting chief administrative officer Caroline Blair-Smith says “allegations of racism and discrimination within our organization are taken very seriously and we are committed to taking meaningful steps to address these concerns.”

Sheppard says the diversity and inclusion teams and anti-Black racism committees don’t go far enough and trivialize the pain and suffering of these workers.

“Some of the policies of HRM should be reviewed within the ‘African-Nova Scotia lens,’ if you will,” Sheppard says. “Because some of the policies are actually, seems to be adding to the inequality.”

HRM confirms that it’s heard the concerns from workers and acknowledges that work still needs to be done, saying it remains committed to addressing anti-Black racism.


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