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Raymond Sheppard: Justice is compromised in the Nhlanhla Dlamini case

Jan 18 protest at Pictou Courthouse in support of Nhlanhla Dlamini. Photo from New Glasgow News video footage

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – On September 19, 2018, after days of racist bullying, taunts and slights, young Nhlanhla Dlamini was allegedly brutally shot with a high velocity nail gun by a white co-worker, Shawn Wade Hynes, employed with PQ Properties Limited of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.

21-year-old Nhlanhla, who is of African descent, sustained a punctured lung that required emergency surgery. This injury could easily have resulted in death.

Nonetheless, instead of being charged with attempted murder and/or a hate crime the perpetrator of this heinous act is only looking at a charge of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

Police and the criminal justice system have committed a litany of errors in this case. Errors that were entirely preventable.

In most professions, these errors would prompt soul searching, there would be reprimands, heads would roll. Yet not so much in this case. Why oh why?

Well, the one major difference here is the alleged perpetrator is Caucasian and the victim is African Nova Scotian.

No wonder African Nova Scotians has little faith or trust in this privileged system of justice! All they need to do is consider the long history of racism, intolerance and discrimination within the criminal justice system in Nova Scotia.

This unjust system causes much damage and misery for African Nova Scotians and others. Comparatively, the system seems to work quite well for Caucasians with all their unearned privileges.

Here are but a few of the errors in this case:

  1. Police took no photos of the crime scene.
  2. The mother of the victim was told that the nail gun was not retrieved until three weeks after the shooting.
  3. The nail that punctured Nhlanhla Dlamini’s lung was never retrieved.
  4. Judge Del Atwood issued no bench arrest warrant for Shawn Wade Hynes when he failed to attend court, merely reserved the right to issue a warrant should Hynes fail to appear again on February 11.
  5. An Indigenous RCMP Officer with knowledge of carpentry was removed from the case for unknown reasons.
  6. It took until September 27, 2018; eight day after Nhlanhla Dlamini was shot with the high-powered nail gun, for Shawn Wade Hynes to be arrested.
  7. Two police officers gave different versions of when and how the investigation started. On October 5, 2018, CBC quotes Cpl. Jennifer Clarke of the RCMP as saying, “we were called while the victim was still in hospital and began our investigation from there.” In fact it was RCMP constable Shauna Collier who visited the Aberdeen hospital and took Nhlanhla’s statement on September 20.
  8. On October 6, 2018, RCMP constable (Skipper) Bent visited Nhlanhla at his family home in Pictou. He stated at that time that the nail was not looked for or confiscated because it’s a construction site with a bunch of nails lying around. It would be difficult to determine which nail was the one that punctured Nhlanhla’s lung. He also stated he could not confirm if the nail gun was confiscated.
  9. On February 11, 2019, the Crown requested an adjournment and Judge Del Atwood granted it. Shawn Hynes did not show up, instead, Hynes’s lawyer Andrew O’Blenis filed papers for designation of council which authorizes a lawyer to appear in court on their client’s behalf.

Hate crimes against persons of African descent are escalating in Canada, and indeed in Nova Scotia. Meanwhile authorities are failing to take a strong public stand against these intolerant actions.

The ingrained ways in which the criminal justice system operates to disadvantage African Nova Scotians are systemic, and often subtle.

Lived experience confirms the entrenched racism, intolerance and injustice within the criminal justice system that African Nova Scotian are forced to endure while privilege allows Caucasians to walk through iron, if they ever go to court in the first place.

Black robe, white justice.

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  1. This is a brilliant article. First cops are paid for working their whole shift. That means if they are told to look for the 5 inch nail, they should spend their shift or however long it takes to find it. They let it go for 3 weeks, it wasn’t important to them. Somehow that task was too difficult. It’s also difficult to get straight which cop takes the statement. It’s also too difficult to judge one spent nail from the next — that’s why there are forensics. Shoddy police work, if you can call it that, little to compel the culprit to attend court, is this what justice for African Nova Scotians looks like??

  2. Isn’t the operation and the witnesses enough evidence to put this guy in jail who needs the nail?This is Not Good Justice!!!

  3. sadly there is a witness that appeared like Whodini all of a sudden, that wasn’t there all along nor did they make their presence or support known when he was being threatened, by Shawn. The two of them Shawn and this “witness” gave a report that did not include the victims history of events because, well, he was in the hospital fighting to breathe! Please follow this story with us and rally for justice alongside us!

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