KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – A broad and sweeping joint effort to repair relations between the Town of Truro and the African Nova Scotian community in that town is lauded as a historical event, not just for Truro or Nova Scotia, but for Canada.
It all happened very fast.
A little over two weeks ago Dr. Lynn Jones and some friends were questioned by Truro police after they stopped to watch deer, right in the historic African Nova Scotian Truro neighborhood where her family has lived for many generations.
“Please add me to the list of African Nova Scotians who are constantly being racially profiled in this province for no valid reason and while you’re at it, give your constituents in Truro and your Town police a lesson in white privilege, anti Black racism and the history of the founding people of our province and Truro,” she wrote in an open letter to Truro’s mayor Bill Mills that was published in the Nova Scotia Advocate.
The letter included a series of demands, some dealing with police accountability and carding, and some that went much further.
One demand was for the Town to work with the African Nova Scotian community and build a formal action plan, with timelines and all, to put in place the services and actions to address the concerns around racism of African Nova Scotians.
This Monday Truro Mayor Bill Mills tabled a motion at the October Council meeting that will set that process in motion.
The motion was unanimously approved by Council. It will see the creation of a Decade for People of African Descent municipal action plan.
This action plan will address issues of systemic anti-Black racism in the Town of Truro and will work collaboratively with the African Nova Scotian community in Truro. The effort is expected to be supported by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, and will be informed by the 2017 Report by the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent which provides recommendations that are specific to Black Canadians, including African Nova Scotians.
A working group will be appointed consisting of members of Truro Council’s diversity committee and representatives of the African Nova Scotian communities in Truro. The chair will be independent.
Several members of Truro’s Black community spoke in support of the motion prior to the vote.
Among them was former Town councillor Raymond Tynes, appointed earlier this year to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, as well as Vaness Fells, program coordinator of the African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent Coalition (DPAD). DPAD is a group of over 31 organizations, as well as over 70 individuals who are working collaboratively to address issues of systemic racism throughout the province.
“We are in full support of what you’re going to vote on today. You would be the first town council to actually do something like this. So you would be trailblazers,” Fells said.
The last person to speak prior to the historic vote was Dr. Lynn Jones, whose letter set the entire process in motion.
“As people before me have already said, this is history in the making. But I think we also have to understand as a community and as a council, that it was not an easy road,” Dr. Jones said.
“It took a lot of discussions, as the mayor mentioned. We had a tough meeting a few weeks ago where the community brought forward their concerns around racism and discrimination. And it was hard for some people to accept that these experiences do exist in this town which we all love,” said Jones.
“But who would ever imagine that in two and a half weeks we would get to the point of forming a partnership between the community and the town and being able to move forward. We’ve turned the corner, and we’re not turning back.”
Watch a video of the October 7 council meeting here.
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