KJIPUTUK (Halifax) – “Racism is a shame on Nova Scotia. Racism is that way because we have allowed it to be. We as union people, as black people, have allowed it to go on for too long. We have not stood outside the legislature enough to demand our rights.”
That’s what Ann Divine, chair of the Black and Immigrant Women Network told a crowd gathered at the Grand Parade today to mark a belated International Day for the Elimination of Racism.
“This is a time people are afraid to talk about racism, afraid to talk about racial discrimination, afraid to utter the words systemic discrimination, but we should not be afraid of it. Because it is alive and well in 2016 in Nova Scotia,” said Divine.
“Conversations about race and racism are always difficult in Nova Scotia, but every day acts of discrimination are taking place. People are spat upon, shouted at, and called names. Every day we are told to leave our bags outside of the store, because of racial discrimination and consumer racial profiling.”
“Here in HRM there are 10,000 Mi’kmac. But when I look around at the faces in the workforce we are woefully outnumbered,” said Dave Ladoucer, 1st Vice President of the Unifor Marine Workers Union, and aboriginal rights activist.
“When I ask the company what it is doing to address this I get the same old answer. Unqualified. Can’t get hold of them. No security clearance. Not just my company, this is across the board,” said Ladoucer.
“We asked the Human Rights Commission to look into that I get the response that the commission is here only to handle individual cases,” Ladoucer said. “But I expect more.”
Liz Paris, a Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) activist from New Glasgow, had this advice for fellow union members who are people of colour.
“We need to be in the labour movement. We need our voices to be heard. When I started out I was all by myself. I went to a convention and I thought oh my goodness, it’s just me. I stood alone and I was scared to death.
“Then I realized that they are all my brothers and sisters, regardless of what colour they are. Still today it hasn’t changed that much. There’s a couple more, but not many. We need to fix that problem.
“We have to reach out to our community and say, come with me to the labour meeting, I need your support there. So if you are unionized, get involved! We need to move our issues forward, aboriginal brothers and sisters, people of colour.”
Last year Paris was the recipient of the inaugural Ed Blackman award, an award for CUPE members who have distinguished themselves as anti-racism activists.
The event was hosted by the Halifax-Dartmouth & District Labour Council. Midway through the event the crowd was joined by striking Chronicle Herald newsroom workers who earlier had been engaged in an information picket on Spring Garden Road.