Environment featured Racism

Town of Shelburne councillor throws FaceBook tantrum after Black residents raise pollution fears

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Members of the Black community within the Town of Shelburne have for decades lived with the fear that health problems suffered by an inordinate number of residents are caused by pollutants spreading from a nearby dump.

In a recent FaceBook post on the Shelburne Exchange town councillor Rick Davis suggests that’s all nonsense and furthermore accuses the African Nova Scotian residents of Shelburne of playing the race card.

“I think it’s time to stop playing the racism card. It’s old. And I think it’s time to stop grasping at the looking for “compensation”, game,” the councillor writes.    

The Shelburne Town dump. Photo Robert Devet

And in what appears to be a spiteful move Davis announces that he intends to “(make) a motion at council to rescind our ruling to close the yard waste portion of the dump, as it’s utterly ridiculous.”

The Nova Scotia Advocate has been following this story for over a year now. Earlier this week we published a moving speech about what it is like to live in such close proximity to the dump by Shelburne resident and activist Louise Delisle.

Delisle delivered that speech at the occasion of the Halifax launch of a proposed Environmental Bill of Health.  It’s this speech that causes the councillor’s ire.

“Mr. Clyke, who has lived well into his age living directly across from the “dump” for many years, is in very good health,” writes Davis, as if the example of one negates the disproportionately high amounts of premature deaths that the community has experienced over many decades.

Councillor Rick Davis. Photo Town of Shelburne

Davis also suggests, contrary to historical evidence that the Black community chose to live so near to the dump.

“To begin with, there appears to be implications that white people were purposely targeting Black people, or somehow forcing them to live by a Dump, or that the dump was put there because that’s where black people lived.”

Actually, Black people lived near the dump because it was convenient, Davis argues.

“The reality is, that many black people relied on that dump for a living, because they, unlike many others I suppose, were the only ones that would deal with the removal of town trash,” Davis writes.

In 2015 the Town of Shelburne was reluctant to cancel a controversial “redneck competition” at its Founders Days celebrations, even though Black and other residents pleaded with Town Council to do so because of its unwelcome racist connotations.  


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  1. Wow this man is very rigid and narrow in his perception.

    I don’t believe any one is “playing the racism card”. This is a very demeaning and insulting comment. I know no one who wants to live next to a dump. Understandably health concerns would be priority number one reason. And the only reason I can imagine someone would “choose” to live next to a dump would be because of limited choices.
    Perhaps the dump should be moved to Mr. Davis’s neighbourhood, and see how he likes being treated like the “town trash”. Maybe he could get a job at the dump?

  2. This man should not be representing any municipality in Nova Scotia. His attitude of entitlement and his inability to re-examine what we now recognize as historic wrongs is an embarrassment to the province.

    1. You’re are so right Brenda! This kind of attitude is systemic political racism. Peter Davis may believe his attitude is covert and hidden but it’s overtly plain for all to see.

  3. How incredibly unfortunate that this man is allowed to be a representative of the people. I am not sure if he is actually representing them, or if I should blast Shelburne as a whole for being so incredibly inhumane. Does anyone have access to his post to see if it is still there, or there has been an apology?

      1. To late, it was already said, if he didn’t mean it he wouldn’t of said it now would he 🙁
        Like I tell the kids
        Watch what you say because once ya say it ya can’t take it back !

        1. He issued an apology for what he had said and to anyone that had taken offense to it. I don’t believe it was directed at any one person, Frank.

  4. It’s a sad day for Shelburne. But why would anybody be surprised at this elected officials comments. To suggest the black people needed the dump for employment and to eat says a lot. This man needs a serious history lesson. I wonder if Mr Davis was part of the family’s that pushed the Blacks out of town thus the attitude. Jeez, I wonder where the “Race Card started”. Has anyone bothered to read the, Book of Negroes?
    I walked with Mayor Mattatall down the trail and I trust that was not for show!
    Being a former councillor in Truro having been around the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, I will be bold enough to say that his comments and attitude is a reflection of many elected officials in Nova Scotia. But as long as good people stay silent, you get what you get.
    Raymond Tynes
    Truro, NS

  5. I am white , and am so embarrassed for this town to have this stupid man representing them– shame on you you live there if its so nice and safe

  6. I think the town had bylaws still in existence 45 years ago forbidding Black people from residing in certain areas but can’t confirm this.

  7. Councillor Davis, please read a study conducted by the Dalhousie University School of Nurses called “On the Margins: Understanding Black Women’s Health in Rural and Remote Regions of Nova Scotia. Published between 2003 and 2005, scholars identified the health issues from the dump and the alarming rates of a very specific kind of cancer that plagues the community.

    So while you might be right about the “race” issue, it is due to the segregation and resulting extreme poverty that Black Nova Scotians in your community have been subjected to for generations.

  8. Disgustingly shameful. I suppose the Councillor also feels we live in a colorblind post-racial world where racism no longer exists.

    The term “race card” is completely offensive to minorities. It’s an easy way to deflect legitimate concerns of racism raised by the people that are actually being affected by it.

    This man is a disgrace and he should be removed immediately.

  9. Its called Enviromental Racism you always play the race card when it is served.Dont argue with racist Sue Everyone in sight.Reference Ellison Willis sue HRM recieved 86,000 dump North Preston get a lawyer.

  10. No acceptance, no foul. Might be time to put the education, our ancestors fought so hard to open up for us, to good use. ‘Truth and Reconciliation of African Nova Scotian’s/Slavery.
    Equity and Equality, is just a much discussed topic, which too many people, get paid big bucks, to talk about year after year. If it isn’t bad enough, the talks only ever amount to attempting to cover a gaping wound, with a mini Band-Aid, along comes Ricky to say, “The reality is, that many black people relied on that dump for a living, because they, unlike many others I suppose, were the only ones that would deal with the removal of town trash.” Just a suggestion Ricky, before engaging in public speaking, do your homework, because if you did, you would not have to suppose. You would know, the jobs available to African Nova Scotian’s were the jobs, people like you refused to do and just like your family, their families needed to be supported. In the 1950’s, when Shelburne dump was being built, many people in the community were conditioned to silence and did not have the education levels to know how to protest effectively. Fear of losing jobs at the shipyard, mill and hospital that used that dump also stilled tongues. Sounds to me like the dump moved by the people and not the people moving by the dump, as you would like unsuspecting Nova Scotian’s to believe.
    Your people may have had a little something, to go with the grants they received upon arrival, but they landed in a wilderness. A wilderness which caused Britain to agree, to the Farce they called FREEDOM! Much work to be done in the New Colony. It was an ingenious plan. Britain transported disadvantaged people to the New Colony, where they would further disadvantage them, by delaying and more often than not, reneging on the promises of land and rations. It was not in Britain’s best interest, to allow the freed slaves to become self-sufficient, until, the wilderness was cleared, towns were formed, roads and bridges were built. They needed to keep the Africans at their mercies for survival, until the New Colony was up and running.
    “Negroes found not having a fixed place of abode or a proper means of Subsistence, or of being/an Idle Disorderly person, it shall be lawful for such Justices to bind by indenture said Negro or Negroes, without his or their consent to any person or persons whatsoever for any term not exceeding seven years provided that the Master or Mistress of the said Negroes shall not transport nor carry them out of the Province.”
    “Claimants allowed “Twelve months” to obtain proof of ownership. Those they staked claims to, became their servants throughout the 12-month period, while the claimant attempted to find, or more likely to forged, a bill of sale.”
    Doesn’t sound like these people were paid for their services!!
    As for the compensation, African Nova Scotian’s are owed much more, than retribution you speak of.
    Might be time to have a 2 Million Man/Women March to stop the ‘PROPERTY’ madness you still cling to. For the record, we were not PROPERTY! We were and still are PEOPLE!!! People with much more feelings and heart than you have expressed. People who were captured, abducted, beaten, killed, starved, loaded in ships like sardines, oiled and fattened up, bought, sold, displaced from our homeland, separated from parents, siblings, offspring, sodomized, raped, mutilated, humiliated, worked to death are just some of the things forced upon the living, breathing and loving people who were kidnapped. The savages you received in the lot, were the criminals, which were willingly bought, but the vast majority were loving families, who were destroyed by the European’s need, to fill their greed.
    For sure the unscrupulous were sought out and offered handsome rewards, to aid in the abduction of people who lived freely and reduce them to the status of a workhorse.
    It is only old to you, because even if you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth and a golden horseshoe up your rear, you can no longer kidnap, beat, kill, starve, load us in ships like sardines, oil and fattened us up, buy us, sell us, displace from our homeland (Nova Scotia), sodomized, raped, mutilated, humiliated, or work us to death, without repercussion. This in itself, kills you. So you do the next best thing, you eradicate as many as possible, through other methods such as disease and hardship. Kill them before they grow! Stop them before they multiply! We don’t need them anymore. Nope! We don’t need them anymore!!!
    Band-Aids are not the solution! Fill the hole or deal with the gripe, and please, don’t ever insult us by supposing again!!!!! Do your homework!!!

  11. Yes “know your history” is right. Along with Ingrid Walsh and Lynn Jones from Truro I worked on a Private Members Bill about Environmental Racism two years ago in order to introduce it into the Legislature in spring of 2014. Bill 111: A Private MenAct to Address Environmental Racism. After it was made public we received calls from reporters from all over North America wanting to interview us as they said it was the first Bill of its kind in North America.

    Perhaps this Councillor should take a read of our bill to get a better understand of what “Environmental Racism” actually means. And perhaps the other councillors would learn from it it as well.

    In any case in this day and age people who make offensive and discriminatory remarks publicly like the ones that were uttered deserve to have consequences.

    Congrats to the Black community of Shelburne for standing your ground on this important issue. It’s the racist attitudes that have grown “old” and the time has come to leave them all in the dustbin of antiquity!

    Power to the people!

    Lenore Zann, NDP Critic For Education; Status of Women; Communities, Culture & Hertiage; Gaelic Affairs & Aboriiginal Affairs.

    Shamefully the current Liberal McNeil Govt would not allow the bill to pass so I introduced it again last Fall.

  12. The real struggle is between rich and poor not between black and white. All races have experienced discrimination in one form or another throughout history. Until we become colourblind, and realize that we are all human beings and all lives matter, no matter what period.
    Have we wronged and hurt each other and made mistakes, yes most certainly, but the power of forgiveness is the only path to true healing and progress. All these other “distractions” are only used to divide us so we will be blind to the real issue, 5% of the people control 90% of the world’s economic wealth, this crushes dreams, hopes, and aspirations of many people, families and communities, including children. Economic slavery and the divide between the rich and poor are the real enemy. For the love of money is the root of ALL evil !!!!!!! And something can be done to change this because the ants outnumber the grasshoppers, but if the ants fight among themselves, and concentrate on their differences instead of their similarities, we will never overcome.

  13. RICK DAVIS….How do you still have a seat at town council for disgusting racist comment.Stop trying to apologizing man up and admit thats`s how you feel about my community

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