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Raymond Sheppard: It’s time to do the right thing for African Nova Scotians

Raymond Sheppard. Photo Robert Devet

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – It is February 2019, African Heritage Month. Our struggles continue, but now it is time to celebrate our glorious history and our countless contributions to Nova Scotia, Canada and the world.

It is also time for the government of Nova Scotia and all its municipalities to step up to the plate and do the right thing for African Nova Scotians.

Below are suggestions where these governments can start if they genuinely want to honour their promises over the years.

Reparations for the enslavement of African Peoples in Nova Scotia should be taken more seriously by the governments of Nova Scotia and Canada

Nova Scotia’s law enforcement and the entire criminal justice system must take anti-Black racism, hate crimes and intolerance more seriously.

Human Rights: The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission must make it a priority to hire more African Nova Scotians, especially as investigators and intake workers. As well, the government of Nova Scotia must introduce legislation to strengthen the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act in order to truly take a bite out of racism.

Employment: Halifax Regional Council must implement all the recommendations of the Employment System Review Report, hire more African Nova Scotians and promote more African Nova Scotians to leadership positions. As well, HRM leadership must make sincere efforts to control toxic and racist work environments.

HRM, other Nova Scotia municipalities, the provincial government and any company seeking employees throughout Nova Scotia should aggressively recruit African Nova Scotians and other individuals from marginalized groups.

For far too long African Nova Scotians have been unemployed and underemployed. True diversity in a workplace free from harassment is a blessing and makes good business sense.

The government of Nova Scotia should recognize Afrocentric mental health counselling based on cultural influences. Consider what type of threat is perceived as traumatic; how African Nova Scotian individuals and communities interpret the meaning of a traumatic event and how they express their reactions to the event, etc.; what is seen as an appropriate response for African Nova Scotians.

Anti poverty programs should be expanded to include more on the job community training programs, prior learning assessment tools, increased income support payments that truly equal the cost of living, etc.

Health: The medical community must stop over-prescribing medication for African Nova Scotians and start recognizing traditional African medicine including herbalism and other treatments. Prescribing medications that are highly priced only serves to affect one’s mental health when they cannot afford to have the prescription filled.

Funding: Based on taxes paid by African Nova Scotians on a yearly basis, part of these funds should be redirected back into the African Nova Scotian community for much needed programs and services such as Africentric mental health services, addiction services, recreation, youth-centered programs, seniors programs and programs for women.

The governments of Nova Scotia and its municipalities should make into law a Nova Scotia Environmental Bill of Rights that puts a stop to the environmental racism that allows waste facilities/dumps to be located in or nearby African Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaw communities. This bill should also include that clean drinking water is a right for all.

Finally, the true history of African Nova Scotians must be told in all history books used in educational institutions. African Nova Scotian elders, community leaders and scholars should be front and centre in these teachings so that the truth will be known.

Raymond Sheppard

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