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Raymond Sheppard: The system failed Gyasi Symonds just as it failed all African Nova Scotians

Raymond Sheppard. Photo Robert Devet

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – I have the pleasure of knowing Gyasi Symonds, the African Nova Scotian man who was brazenly stopped by police for ‘jaywalking’, ever since he was a child. For a while he was even a student of mine. I found he was always respectful and is a good person. 

The system in Nova Scotia failed Gyasi Symonds as it failed all African Nova Scotians. Systems put in place on the backs of African people by our oppressors have never served us.

In 2017, Gyasi Symonds, crossed Gottingen Street in the Halifax North End in the steps of four white co-workers, all were going for coffee. As an African Nova Scotian male Gyasi was targeted by two Halifax police officers and given a ticket for $410. They came to Gyasi’s workplace and caused a ruckus to deliver this bogus “Black-only ticket.”

This is not normal police procedure, because I see at least one hundred non African Nova Scotians jaywalk everyday, many times when police are around. Clearly illegality only comes into play when you’re walking while Black and so-called normal police procedure only applies to Black people.

Earlier this month, the Nova Scotia’s Human Rights Commission agreed with Gyasi Symonds that his human rights were severely compromised.

In his decision Commission chair Benjamin Perryman ordered the Halifax police to pay Gyasi Symonds $15,232 in general damages and compensation for “injury to his dignity, feelings and self-respect.”

Now brothers and sisters of African descent, let’s not throw our hands up in celebration based on this one decision by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission is failing the African Nova Scotian community. In earlier articles I wrote for the Nova Scotia Advocate I have mentioned the names of many African Nova Scotians that had their complaints unfairly dismissed by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. While the commission has said that they “dropped the ball”, I believe that the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Act are in need of a serious review.

With a newly appointed executive director, maybe our complaints will be taken more seriously and acted upon in a timely manner. 

We can always hope.

See also: Judy Haiven: Crossing Gottingen Street while Black 

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