KJIPUKTUk (Halifax) – 27 years ago the federal NDP snubbed Lynn Jones and the African Nova Scotian community, and today leader Jagmeet SIngh came to the North End public library to apologize for that slight on behalf of his party.
In 1993 the NDP went out of its way to celebrate the nomination of its 100th female candidate, a person running uncontested in a Halifax riding. Audrey McLaughlin, the federal leader, was there, there were lots of journalists, it was a great way for the party to emphasize its feminist roots.
Except the person being celebrated wasn’t the 100th candidate at all. That woman was actually no 101. The real 100th woman nominated was Dr. Lynn Jones.
Jones ran in another Halifax riding and won that nomination two days earlier. Many people didn’t expect her to win, but she did.
However, when Jones pointed that out, she was ignored. The wheels were set in motion, the party had made up its mind, it wasn’t changing anything.
“I want to apologize as leader of the New Democratic Party to the African Canadian and the African Nova Scotian community for the hurt that was caused by our own party, for a historic wrongdoing,” said Singh.
“(Lynn Jones’ accomplishment) is something that should have been proudly recognized and celebrated. But it wasn’t. We did not recognize Dr. Jones’s achievement and contribution. It was wrong. And I want to say that I’m sorry on behalf of our party for that wrongdoing. And for the injury that it’s caused.”
“A starting point for healing is to say, hey, harm was done. And once we acknowledge the harm that’s done, we can go to the next stages of healing, and then move towards justice. It’s not enough to just acknowledge the injustice, there’s got to be some steps to actually get to a place of fairness,” he said.
At the time to be ignored like that was painful for Dr. Jones. Just one of those many aggressions that frame the experiences of Black people in Canada.
“It made me realize that racism had reared its ugly head again,” said Jones, who remembers how her brother Rocky Jones recommended she denounce the party and pull out.
“But I decided that there were bigger issues than that. For me it was more important that the Black community was proud of me running and supportive and part of my campaign. I was also the first Black person born In Canada, to run in the federal election, so they were excited about celebrating that,” Jones said.
Appropriately, the apology occurred during a well attended day long workshop on reparations for African Nova Scotians.
“As a person who works on the issue of reparations that deals with the atrocities of the Atlantic slave trade, it just brings home all the more that reparations is is not just about monetary gains,” Jones said.
“My initial response was no, I’m not accepting this apology. It was intentional, and now you come back and say that you’re sorry when you didn’t do anything about it.”
“But then I realized that it’s not about me, it’s about community. I’m really pleased that the apology is to the entire community. It is also important that the party has agreed to advance the issues of reparations, and that they would develop some kind of policy platform around it,” said Jones.
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