Sunday, 21 October 2018
Media release Racism

Letter of rebuttal to comments by MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin

JCANS Jamaican Cultural Association of Nova Scotia 15 Primrose Avenue Halifax, NS Canada, B3R 1A4 (902) 477-8478

April 20, 2018

Re MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin:

On behalf of the Jamaican Cultural Association of Nova Scotia (JCANS) I take this opportunity to rebut and reject the negative comments of MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin against JAMAICA and Jamaicans in particular. The Article posted in the Toronto Sun and Star Metro and online, quoted comments by Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, MLA, which she made during a debate in Halifax on the legalization of recreational marijuana.

“Smoking marijuana in Jamaica is commonly accepted, people have poor work ethic and low productivity”

“I worry for the future of our province and country, I grew up surrounded by hardworking people who were clear minded, sober and productive, Nova Scotia already has low productivity problems, we don’t need something else making it worse”.

It is a major leap to jump from legalizing pot to inferring profound negative effects on the Province of Nova Scotia by drawing the example of the “effect” that it has on Jamaicans. She suggested that Jamaicans are unproductive, lazy, not sober in mind and lacking proper work ethic, therefore, inferring, that they are undesirable human beings to be welcomed into this country.

By expressing such noxious ideas against Jamaicans, she is committing a grave calumny by levelling false accusations against a whole nation of people with intent to devalue, to injure and to assign blame. She is in fact reinforcing a racial stereotype, which is a residue of slavery.

Jamaicans are known to be very proud, hardworking and highly motivated people who strive for high ideals and pursue opportunities to achieve higher education, better jobs and better opportunities for their children no matter their skin colour. Canada is this land of opportunity; it seems that she would wish to turn back the clock on multiculturalism.

Her sweeping generalization tarnishes all Jamaicans wherever they may reside. This comment shows her ignorance of the facts, prejudices and racial bias.

Ms. Smith-McCrossin, I would like to inform you that only a small percentage of the Jamaican population uses or smokes marijuana. I also “grew up surrounded by hardworking people who were clear minded, sober and productive” This is not exclusive to Nova Scotians! Our country has produced many brilliant doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, technologists, scientists, engineers etc. I grew up in Jamaica and came to Canada as a university graduate. I never smoked cigarettes or marijuana and I will never choose to do so, that is my personal choice and the choice of many Jamaicans that I know. Some who choose to use marijuana do so for medical reasons, others for religious reasons, while a smaller percentage smoke it for personal recreation.

You have mischaracterized the whole issue of marijuana use on the Island. The Jamaican Parliament has over the recent years decriminalized the use of recreational marijuana in step with the legislative changes taking place throughout North America. This means that it is not a criminal offense to possess a small amount of marijuana for private use, but fines can be imposed for public use, without leading to a criminal record. However, it is still a felony to possess large amounts, and it is illegal to sell or distribute larger amounts of marijuana for profit.

The distinction between decriminalization and legalization is very clear. I would like to point out to you that at present the Marijuana plant grows in many countries, including Canada, so your generalization is neither fair nor accurate. You may be aware of the “gold rush” taking place in North America in places like Colorado, California, and British Colombia, which have the largest marijuana growing farms. It is an growth industry which capitalizes on the economic benefits and the revenue expected from the legalization, commercialization, and genetic alteration of the plant called ‘Cannabis Sativa’ (Marijuana). Your comment reflects your apparent ignorance of these facts. Canada and the USA are planning to legalize marijuana use, while Jamaica has no such plans to date. I hope I have clarified some points for you.

It is unfortunate that because of your latent bias and the bias of your “friend” (your source on the nature and status of Jamaicans) and your prejudice and blatant racism, you cast aspersions on Jamaicans by belittling and denigrating this group of people through your generalizations about their behaviour and lifestyle. That is racism.

Ms. Smith-McCrossin, as someone who is aspiring to lead our Provincial Government, I suggest that you would benefit from Cultural Sensitivity Training and more Botanical Education about the Marijuana plant. Your non-apology sounds hollow and reflects an unfiltered utterance of words without thought for the possible impact they could have on our youth as well as on our adults living in this our multi-ethnic and multicultural country and province. Immigrants come to Canada for many reasons, but each person is yearning to breathe free, unshackled by bigotry and racism. Unfortunately, in your capacity as a public servant your words spew disrespect and contempt on undeserving people.

Ms. Smith-McCrossin you have shown disrespect for the country of my birth and for all the people of Jamaican descent living in Nova Scotia as well as thousands who are in diaspora throughout the world. As the Jamaican Motto states, “OUT OF MANY, ONE PEOPLE.” We are very proud of our origins, we have high moral standards, strong ethical values and great ambition to achieve greatness if given the opportunity. We strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield to denigration and disrespect from anyone. You ill-advisedly used our country as your example of the lowest undesirables who could threaten Nova Scotia’s stability and productivity. That is so unjust, and unbecoming of a politician whose role it is to embrace people of all types and to encourage the development of what is best in each person who brings his or her talents to help build this country.

Your words have wounded us deeply, by saying this I am reflecting the thoughts of the membership of the Jamaican Cultural Association of Nova Scotia (JCANS)

I recall a phrase a teacher once told my classmates in high school in Jamaica:

“Make sure brain is engaged before opening mouth.”

I recommend this thought-provoking idea to you.

Sincerely,

  1. Olive Phillips President (JCANS)

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