October 13, 2020
Dear Premier McNeil
Over 30 years ago the Royal Commission on the Donald Marshall Jr. Prosecution officially recognized systemic racism in the justice system and its impact on the Mi’kmaq and African Nova Scotians (ANS). The African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent (ANSDPAD) Coalition acknowledges the provincial government’s official apology for systemic racism, while remembering that it has been a long time coming.
The ANSDPAD Coalition includes thirty-five ANS organizations across the province and the thousands of individuals that these organizations collectively serve. Our Coalition has been in discussions with the province of Nova Scotia and policing officials aimed at addressing anti-Black racism in the criminal justice system for over three years.
The Coalition has formally proposed to the Nova Scotia government both structural – African Nova Scotian Justice Institute (ANSJI) and procedural African Nova Scotian Policing Strategy (ANSPS) interventions designed to achieve a more just system for all. On December 11, 2019, we submitted a proposal for the ANSJI. This was followed, in the spring of 2020, with an ANSPS proposal. Instead of working with the Coalition and other ANS community leaders, the province unexpectedly announced funding to support two government-selected facilitators and a design team that did not include representation from either the ANSDPAD Coalition or any ANS organization.
The ANSDPAD Coalition rejects the legitimacy of the ‘design team’ announced as part of the government’s proposal. In addition to its lack of independence from the government, and its fundamentally flawed composition in terms of its failure to include ANSDPAD or its member organizations, we question whether all of the individuals named to this supposed team were even aware that they had agreed to serve on it or its terms of reference. Moreover, we have no confidence in the ability of the co-facilitators of this government-imposed process to bring together the diverse members of the ANS community to ensure that the process has legitimacy, widespread community participation, viability and a reasonable chance of success.
The government of Nova Scotia must not decide for the ANS people that our fundamental legal and human rights will be mediated through a forced process. To impose this approach on us, in the way the government has suggested, is to reinforce the very systems of racism and discrimination that have marginalized and oppressed the ANS people for centuries.
The government’s proposed restorative approach to improving public safety is an unnecessary and illegitimate diversion from the work that we have been doing. It does not respect the longstanding work and expertise of ANS and Black organizations and individuals who have been leading responses to anti-Black racism in the province’s justice system. Again, the imposition of this process on our people is a form of anti-Black racism. It is in no way restorative. Indeed, the manner in which this has come about is antithetical to the very principles that are purported to guide restorative processes.
Any process to address ANS justice issues must be designed and led by ANS people. The government’s proposed process must be dismantled in favour of an ANS led process that centres our own justice priorities and approaches. If the government seeks to reform public safety in the province, it ought to work with our community and its leaders to refine and implement the proposals that ANSDPAD has already submitted. We believe that this work could and should be done in solidarity with and parallel to the work being done by members of the Mi’kmaq First Nation.
African Nova Scotian’s remain ready to engage in a renewed relationship with the government of Nova Scotia. That cannot happen through the design process proposed by the government.
Ms. Vanessa Fells, Director of Operations On behalf of ANSDPAD Coalition cc:
- Hon. Mark Furey, Minister of Justice
- Hon. Kelly Regan, Minister of Community Services
- Hon. Tony Ince, Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs
- Ms. Candace Thomas, Deputy Minister, Justice and the Office of Social Innovation and Integrative Approaches
- Ms. Tracey Taweel, Deputy Minister, Community Services
- Mr. Justin Houston, Deputy Minister, Communities, Culture and Heritage