I’m a 48-year-old, white, straight, cisgender male. That is to say, I’m pretty privileged. I do not know about the lived experiences of those who are racialized, marginalized, invisible, and oppressed. I’ve read books, watched movies, taken courses, attended protests, listened and had conversations with those who live that experience every day. I still can’t fully know what it’s like to be shut out, put down, followed, profiled, street-checked, kneeled on, choked, or killed. Walking, shopping, or driving while white doesn’t usually end up with a police interaction, let alone violence. It is all too common if you’re Black, Indigenous, or a Person of Colour.
These last few weeks appears to have taken that proverbial pot from the low boil it’s been on for decades to full-on rolling boil, splashing its scalding water all over the kitchen. We’ve seen periods of boiling before but they didn’t seem to spark the kind of widespread protest and awareness that we are seeing now within all parts of our society. This time feels different.
Like many have been, I’ve been sitting with these thoughts for a while now trying to figure out how I can positively contribute in a more meaningful way against anti-black racism, against overt and systemic discrimination against all who have been harmed.
First, we have to acknowledge that racism is in our society. It’s not just our history. It’s our present. It’s in our institutions and systems, and in our workplaces and schools. It’s real and it’s harming…and killing…Black people here and around the world. And, it’s holding us all back.
Here’s what I can do just as a fellow human. I can listen more. I can learn more. I can love more. I can shine a light on the voices that have been lost or silenced. I can amplify their message. I can be a better ally. I can call out racism when I see it. I can call for change. We can all do this. We all NEED to do this.
Here’s what I can do as an elected municipal official. I can make sure there’s more transparency in decisions that affect racialized and marginalized individuals and communities. I can push for more representation of those voices where those decisions get made. I can make sure that representation is not token and our processes are changed to fit those voices, not expect those voices to change to fit our current systems. I can stand to the side, so those voices are louder than mine. And, I can help implement the changes those voices call for.
I can hold the police to account more. I can ensure that they have the training they need to police our communities with more respect, dignity, and humanity. I can push them to not over-police racialized communities and harass and arrest a disproportionate number of African-Nova Scotians. I can push to replace some policing services with more appropriate non-police professionals to help communities and people in need. I can work with the province to change the Police Act and give more appropriate powers to municipalities and Boards of Police Commissions to hold police officers and departments responsible.
I can work to change the structures and systems that allow our institutions, founded in colonization, that are still marginalizing, subjugating, and oppressing the Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour, as well as 2SLGBTQIA+ in our society. I will be working with other municipal, provincial, and federal leaders to do this.
For too long, I’ve heard the stories, seen the news, talked to those who have experienced this. Clearly, I have not done enough. I need more education. I need to do more. I need to be more. I commit that I will.
On EarthDay in 2017, we held a Science March in Grand Parade in front of Halifax City Hall, with some amazing speakers. I was honoured to be one of those invited to speak. This video popped up in my Facebook feed today (the third anniversary), so I thought I would share it. I think the topic is as relevant now as it was then. Here is the video: www.facebook.com/ScienceMarchHalifax/videos/1095036843973368/
My District 9 e-newsletter for May 2020 is up. You can read it here: https://www.halifax.ca/sites/default/files/documents/city-hall/districts-councillors/D9%20May%202020%20Enewsletter%20final_0.pdf
After reading the Wortley report and hearing the immediate response of the Nova Scotia Minister of Justice, I feel compelled to say that Halifax and Nova Scotia needs to do the right thing and build a new relationship with our black community.
I am grateful to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission for engaging Dr. Scott Wortley in researching street checks in Halifax. I am also grateful to the African Nova Scotians who contributed their experiences, yet again.
Professor Wortley’s research findings are welcomed, disturbing, and not surprising, given what members of Halifax’s black community have been saying for too many years. The history of racism and systemic discrimination against African Nova Scotians is not new.
Professor Wortley’s report should be the kick in the pants that police and elected officials in Nova Scotia and Halifax need to make the necessary changes to bring fairness, respect, and dignity to our residents of African descent. We have been failing them and that must change.
We can no longer allow the present situation to continue. The over-surveillance of the black community clearly leads to the over-representation of black people in our justice system and in prisons and limits the opportunities of black males in particular.
I believe that the Nova Scotia Minister of Justice and the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners must place an immediate moratorium on street checks until Dr. Wortley’s recommendations have been considered. For me, the following conditions must be met:
-the lawfulness of street checks has been fully investigated;
-strict regulations have been developed that will severely limit street checks and remove racialized differences in future street check occurrences, with demographic documentation of all police stops and police-civilian interactions for future data analysis;
-historical street check data has been cleaned, with older, biased records removed, and access to the database restricted to police investigators only;
-new training has been provided to all police officers on cultural competency, implicit bias, racial profiling and the its effects on racialized communities; and
-there has been an engagement with the black community that puts in place a plan to improve relations between police and the black community.
Professor Wortley’s research found that street check data has little relationship to overall crime statistics, so temporarily halting its collection should have no detrimental effect on solving and preventing crime. Until we can ensure that any intelligence gathered by police is done in a manner that doesn’t disproportionately and negatively affect racialized communities, we should not be conducting street checks.
District 9 – Halifax West Armdale
I was both saddened and sickened when Legault’s CAQ government in Quebec tabled Bill 21 yesterday. This move is completely antithetical to what a modern, progressive Canada is today.
Although Quebecers have been debating a move in this direction for years, Bill 21, and its use of the Notwithstanding Clause is not consistent with a free and just society. I heard the Quebec justice minister interviewed where he indicated that he’s concerned about civil servants wearing religious symbols indoctrinating other citizens while carrying out the duties of the state. This kind of insidious racism and xenophobia cannot be unmet by other views from across Canada.
For the CAQ government to limit the opportunities of, and oppress, only some of their residents, simply because they practice a religion, is unconscionable. Using the Notwithstanding Clause is a recognition that they are trampling on the fundamental rights of Canadians.
I was looking forward to attending the 2019 conference of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities with municipal representatives from across our country. In light of the CAQ government’s move, I cannot contribute the economy of Quebec and tacitly support Bill 21.
I am requesting that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities postpone the 2019 Conference until it can be moved outside of the province of Quebec, or possibly to Montreal, where Mayor Valerie Plante, who announced her opposition to Bill 21, has provided a counterweight and a bright light in such a dark time. If moved to Montreal, perhaps, demonstrations by municipal delegates would be appropriate.
If the conference is not moved, I am asking that municipal delegates boycott the conference in solidarity with those whose rights are being trampled by the CAQ government.
District 9 – Halifax West Armdale
Click here for the December 2018 e-newsletter: https://www.halifax.ca/sites/default/files/documents/city-hall/districts-councillors/D9_NEWS_December_2018.pdf
There are loads of fantastic events, rides, and benefits for Bike Weeks 2018. You can ride the Ferry for free if you're on your bike. You can complete your Bike Week Passport for a free T-Shirt. You can get free Yoga, discounts on gear and food - just for showing your bike helmet and/or Bike Week Passport.
Check out all the great events and benefits here: www.halifax.ca/transportation/cycling-walking/bike-week/schedule-events
Get outside on the Emera Oval year-round! In-line skating in the summer and ice skating in the winter. How great is that? The Emera Oval is an outdoor skating surface equivalent in size to 3 NHL hockey rinks. It is the largest outdoor, artificially-refrigerated ice surface east of Quebec City.
In the summer, you can borrow inline & roller skates, bikes, scooters, plasma cars, helmets and protective gear. Adapted equipment available. All users of the Emera Oval must wear a helmet in the summer.
For more info, click here: https://www.halifax.ca/recreation/facilities-fields/emera-oval
The Oval opened today, December 15, 2017. It's a great pace for all ages and abilities. You can borrow a helmet, hockey skates, figure skates, speed skates, sledges, and even snow shoes. Note: All children 12 and under must wear a CSA multi-impact helmet.
On New Year's Eve (Dec. 31, 2017), there's a whole day's worth of fun scheduled with two fireworks displays - 7:50pm for the little ones and midnight for the older skaters! Here's the complete schedule for New Year's Eve:
11:00am - 2:00pm - Public Skate
2:00pm - 3:00pm - Ice Maintenance
3:00pm - 5:00pm - Public Skate
5:00pm - 6:00pm - Ice Maintenance
6:00pm - 8:00pm - Public Skate *1st Fireworks show @ 7:50 pm
8:00pm - 9:00pm - Ice Maintenance
9:00pm - 12:00am - Public Skate *2nd Fireworks show @12:00 midnight
You can see the 2017-18 season Oval skating schedule and a live webcam here: