COVID-19 disproportionately impacted these communities, and it only added to the systemic inequities they faced before this global public health crisis. Whether it’s in the economy, justice, education, or our healthcare system, many communities have felt left out, and left behind.
The role of government must always be to ensure that everyone, no matter their background, religion, skin colour, sexual orientation, or gender, is given a fair, and equitable shot at success, and provided the support needed to get there. With the end of the pandemic in sight, we have a real chance at making a lasting change for all Nova Scotians.
Equity is our end goal, and we must work together with communities who have faced hundreds of years of systemic discrimination to right historic wrongs. Government has a role to play, and Liberals recognize that it will take hard work, and a whole-of-government approach to ensure that we can reach our common goal.
That’s why we created the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism was created – to ensure that we champion equity in all that we do. Since its creation in February of 2021, the Office has engaged directly with local community leaders, community organisations, advocacy groups, and across government. The overall consensus is clear – nothing can be done without community, and the time to act is now.
Accelerating the Land Titles Initiative
For over 200 years, African Nova Scotians have lived on land passed down through generations without clear and formal land title, excluding families from the full benefits of land ownership. This has prevented African Nova Scotians from developing, building upon, selling or transferring land, and limiting the opportunity for intergenerational wealth transfer.
Following the creation of the new Office, our government launched a $3 million compensation fund to settle land title claims in five historic African Nova Scotian communities. This will ensure that community members can finally receive– and maintain– clear title to their land at no cost, while accelerating efforts to address the legacy of systemic racism in the land registry system.
Collecting race-based health data
We know that to deliver better health outcomes and improve equitable access to health services for all Nova Scotians, we must first understand what barriers individuals and communities experience. The collection and interpretation of race-based data allows government to identify and address systemic inequity within the health system and deliver better services to racialized Nova Scotians.
The Liberal Government understands this need and continues to collaborate with the community-based working group to support the collection of race-based health data.
African Nova Scotian Cohort – Bachelor of Social Work
There is a demonstrable need to enhance the capacity of social workers to be culturally responsive to the needs of all communities in Nova Scotia. In the early 2000s a Mi’kmaq and Maliseet BSW cohort was created at the Bachelor of Social Work program at Dalhousie University. A Cape Breton cohort was created in the 1990s.
A Rankin Government will allocate $500,000 over three years to create an African Nova Scotian student cohort of 25 students to enter the Bachelor of Social Work program at Dalhousie in September 2022. This will ensure a tailored experience for students of African descent and is an opportunity to show what social work is and can do for African Nova Scotian people
Breaking barriers in Education
The Liberal Party believes that Nova Scotian students from all backgrounds deserve fair and equal opportunities for success in the classroom. African Nova Scotian and Indigenous students are disproportionately placed on individual performance programs (IPPs), increasing stigmatization and impacting their sense of belonging in school.
Our Government has committed to an equity assessment of IPPs to identify and address systemic barriers that impact students identifying as African Nova Scotian and Indigenous. We will continue to work collaboratively with students, teachers, parents, and staff, to ensure that all children have a clear path to barrier-free success.
The Liberal Government recognizes the unique heritage of our Acadian communities, and appreciates the necessity of protecting the language of francophone Nova Scotians within our education system. We will continue to collaborate with the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial (CSAP) to develop new, independent legislation that will complement the Education Act, while respecting language and culture.
Mi’kmaq Language Legislation
The Mi’kmaq language is the language of Mi’kma’ki and the first language spoken in what we now call Nova Scotia. Sharing and protecting wisdom for centuries, the language is resilient and has survived efforts to erase its use, including residential schools. As of the 2016 census, there are 8,870 Mi’kmaq speakers, with approximately 5,500 residing in present day Nova Scotia.
Interest in learning the Mi’kmaq language has never been higher, and the Liberal Party will do its part to support Mi’kmaq to stabilize and sustain language learning in Nova Scotia as a necessary step along the path of truth and reconciliation.
A Liberal Government will introduce Mi’kmaw language legislation by October 1, 2021 (Treaty Day), in consultation with Mi’kmaq and Mi’kmaw organizations and provide funding to enable participation in the process.
The new legislation will acknowledge Mi’kmaq as Nova Scotia’s original language and commit to specific actions that contribute to the language’s preservation, including a funded action plan with an accountability structure consistent with Mi’kmaq values..
Recognizing Emancipation Day
Our shared history matters. We all have a responsibility to learn about what makes us who we are, and to work towards a better future. Through the collective efforts of community members, African Nova Scotian Affairs, and the new Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives, the Liberal Government passed legislation to recognise August 1st as Emancipation Day in Nova Scotia.
To further highlight this important part of our shared history, our government announced funding of $20,000 for two artists-in-residences at the Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery at NSCAD University in April of this year. The artists-in-residence will begin creating works of art that speak to the study of the Institute in the fall of 2021.
This will provide Nova Scotians with the opportunity to learn about the legacy of slavery in the province, and encourage reflection on what it means to work towards a more equitable society.
Anti-Racism Strategy and Anti-Racism Legislation
Acts of hatred have no place in Canada, or Nova Scotia. We acknowledge that racism and hatred exist in our province, and we must all unite to fight back.
That’s why on June 14th, Premier Rankin announced that the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives would work with communities and across government to develop clear definitions of race based hatred, in all forms. Islamophobia, Anti-Asian, antisemitism, anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism, and other forms of racism and inequity that exist across Nova Scotia will be defined by the Office – with guidance from communities – and will be used to educate Nova Scotians on inequity and systemic racism.
A Liberal Government will work to introduce legislation that includes these community-led definitions of hate. The Office of Equity & Anti-Racism will work with communities and across government to create a provincial Anti-Racism Strategy that will fight the hatred that equity-seeking groups face head-on.
The strategy will include recommendations to address hate-motivated crimes, public education, public reporting of measures, and the responsible collection and use of race-based data. Our goal of a fairer, more equitable Nova Scotia will take time and hard work, but we will build a brighter future, with communities, together.