My father, the late Junior Sparks, made sure that I grew up with strong ethics. He often would tell me, “You have to mean what you say, and say what you mean.”
Over the last number of days, we have seen the Houston government say that they will be listening to Nova Scotia’s Black community, that they will work with the community—that they will ensure the voices of Black and African Nova Scotians will be reflected in their government.
Unfortunately, the actions of this government to date does not reflect that. And we are hearing from the community that it is unacceptable.
In a recent letter to Premier Houston by the Association of Black Social Workers, African United Baptist Association of Nova Scotia and the Health Association of African Canadians, they outlined their hurt and frustration not only with the appointment of Pat Dunn—a white man—as Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs, but with the removal of a Black deputy minister for Communities, Culture and Heritage, and the ousting of the 15-member Nova Scotia Health Authority which included both the first Black and Indigenous board members.
In their letter, these organizations go on to speak 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.” None of this is more apparent than in the government’s recent mandate letter for the Department of African Nova Scotian Affairs, as well as the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives, a department created earlier this year.
The government commitments for these departments ring hollow. They’re devoid of any detail—of any specific goals or priorities for our province’s Black communities compared to other department mandates. Here was an opportunity for the Premier to get down to brass tacks and develop unambiguous objectives with Minister Dunn that would champion positive change on behalf of Black people in Nova Scotia. But the mandate greatly lacks that and makes it clear that the Houston government is not representing the considerations of Black people in Nova Scotia.
In fact, it seems the direction Premier Houston and the Progressive Conservatives are pursuing is anything but progressive.
Premier Houston, you have to mean what you say. And right now, you are falling short of that.