TRURO, N.S. – A special committee to be created by Truro Council to work with the local African Nova Scotian community is being described by proponents as a “historic” move.
Town Council on Monday unanimously passed a motion to form a committee that will conduct direct consultation and community meetings with the black community.
“It’s historic because nothing like this has really happened,” said Vanessa Fells, program coordinator for the Dartmouth-based group, African Nova Scotian Decade For People of African Descent.
“Now, Truro has put in a resolution that says they are going to create their own,” said Fells, who spoke at the Truro meeting. “So, that’s very historic. It means that they are not only recognizing the Decade but recognizing that there is an ongoing issue of racial discrimination and racism against the African Nova Scotian community.”
Once formed, part of the committee’s mandate is to create an action plan to address issues of systemic anti-black racism in the Town of Truro and to work collaboratively with the African Nova Scotian (ANS) community in Truro.”
Canada was the first country in North America to recognize the Decade and Nova Scotia recently became the first province, or state, in North America to acknowledge, develop and release an action plan in response to the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent.
Mayor Bill Mills said the proposal to form the local committee came following a meeting at the Truro fire hall on Sept. 23, during which racism and related issues were discussed. Prior to that meeting, Mills attended the launch of the United Nations report on the people of African descent in Halifax, adopted by the province and aimed at dealing with issues faced by the ANS community across the province.
“We brought it back to Truro and we agree in principle on whatever we can do locally with the report, we will work to that end,” Mills said. “And we will start to address two things. Number one, the concerns that were raised at the local meeting on Sept. 23 and also how that ties in with the Nova Scotia Count Us In Program.
Some 20 issues, from communication and understanding to a range of other community concerns including exclusion from historical recognition, employment/hiring concerns, a lack of engagement, partnerships/inclusiveness and respect, to mental health support and help for single black moms were raised during the September meeting.
“My hope is to create an action plan that addresses the needs of the African Nova Scotian community,” Fells said, adding the intention is to produce recommendations that can be implemented for the “good of everyone.”
“Because when you celebrate and recognize everyone and you work collaboratively to address issues, then it’s for the better of all.”
The committee is to have an equal number of members from the community and from council appointment. Initially, it is to include 10 members with the final composition being determined by a recommendation from the committee to council.
Council will appoint members of the Diversity Committee to the Special Committee. The African Nova Scotia community will select representatives from each of the town’s historically designated areas as well as any community representatives it sees as appropriate to represent the community on the committee. The chair is to be a qualified, independent person appointed with agreement from both the town and the ANS community.
As part of this process, council will be consulting with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission prior to the work of the special committee getting underway.
“And then we will sit down and start to address the issues and move forward,” Mills said.