Legislation Will Address Systemic Racism, Hate and Inequity
NOTE: A statement by Minister Dunn, read in the House of Assembly today, March 24, follows the release.
Legislation introduced today, March 24, with the support of all parties, will make Nova Scotia a leader in addressing systemic racism, hate and inequity.
The Dismantling Racism and Hate Act, developed by an all-party committee following extensive engagement with Nova Scotians, outlines the government’s approach to addressing systemic racism, hate and inequity and commits to developing a provincial strategy and a health equity framework by July 2023.
It enables the government to require other public bodies, such as municipalities, villages, colleges and universities, to develop strategies as well.
“This bill is the first of its kind in Canada, and it’s important that we did it together,” said Pat Dunn, Minister responsible for the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives. “I want to thank the members of the all-party committee and the hundreds of Nova Scotians who helped shape this legislation. We know that this is a step on the journey, not the destination. We must continue to work together to address racism and hate and create a more equitable Nova Scotia.”
The bill’s other provisions include committing the Province to work with marginalized and racialized communities to create a community network and develop data standards to monitor and address systemic hate, inequity and racism. The Minister will be required to submit an annual progress report on equity and anti-racism measures beginning in July 2023.
Government can – and must – play a critical role in dismantling racism, hate and inequity in our province. Far too often the voices of people and communities who have experienced discrimination are not in the rooms where decisions are being made. This legislation will work to address that and create an ongoing dialogue between government and community. It will also define the hate and racism that is all too real for many Nova Scotians. This is the first of many necessary steps.
Angela Simmonds, MLA for Preston, Deputy Speaker of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly
I’m glad to see this legislation come forward. My community needs to see action on dismantling racism and hate. The NDP Caucus put proposals forward for this legislation, and some of them were included. Many others were not. We are looking forward to hearing from all community members through the law amendments process and finding ways to further strengthen this bill.
Suzy Hansen, MLA for Halifax Needham, NDP African Nova Scotian Affairs spokesperson
- along with Minister Dunn, the all-party committee included Ali Duale, MLA for Halifax Armdale; Suzy Hansen, MLA for Halifax Needham; Tony Ince, MLA for Cole Harbour; Lisa Lachance, MLA for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island; Angela Simmonds, MLA for Preston; and Kent Smith, MLA for Eastern Shore
- the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives held 71 focus groups and engagement sessions on the proposed legislation in January and February involving 1,223 Nova Scotians
- 744 people participated through the Office’s engagement website and 56 responded to an online survey
- Nova Scotia is the first province to introduce legislation that specifically addresses hate, racism and inequity
Bills tabled in the legislature this spring are available at: https://nslegislature.ca/legislative-business/bills-statutes/bills/assembly-64-session-1
What We Heard report on legislation engagement: https://beta.novascotia.ca/documents/equity-and-anti-racism-legislation-engagement-what-we-heard-report
Online engagement platform: https://www.oeaengagement.ca/
Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives:
Statement by Pat Dunn, Minister responsible for the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives:
Mr. Speaker, before I begin my remarks, I want to ask my following colleagues to rise in their places:
The Honourable Member for Cole Harbour
The Member for Halifax Armdale The Member for Preston The Member for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island The Member for Halifax Needham and The Member for Eastern Shore
Mr. Speaker, these Members have done something remarkable. They came together across political lines to create ground-breaking and historic legislation to address hate, racism and inequity.
Later today, I will introduce the bill - only because the rules of the House dictate that I do.
But I want to be clear that this is not MY bill. This legislation came together as a result of frank discussions, compromise and thoughtful debate on the part of the MLAs I named. And they’ll have a chance to respond to this statement and speak to this bill in a few moments.
This legislation was also made possible because of the hard work of:
Deputy Minister Catherine Berliner
Associate Deputy Minister Dwayne Provo DeRico Symonds, Senior Executive Advisor Christine Gibbons, Executive Director, Strategic Policy & Innovation, and; the dedicated staff at the offices of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives and African Nova Scotian Affairs.
Mr. Speaker, staff worked seven days a week to undertake an extensive round of engagement. They held more than 70 online sessions with organizations, community groups and interested Nova Scotians—that’s well over 100 hours of direct engagement. They ran a survey and gathered feedback through a website, by email, and by telephone.
In the span of about six weeks, Mr. Speaker, they heard from more than 2,000 Nova Scotians—and they analyzed and organized all that feedback so we could make informed decisions at the all-party committee.
The work these committed civil servants did will serve as the gold standard for governments across the country, and it helped us produce legislation that will be the first of its kind in Canada. On behalf of all Nova Scotians, I want to thank them for their exceptional contributions to this process and to their province.
I also want to extend my sincere thanks to every Nova Scotian who participated in the consultation sessions. Their opinions, experiences and suggestions shaped the work we did. I especially want to thank those who acknowledged that they have often felt overlooked or unheard by government, and who took a risk in sharing sometimes difficult or painful experiences in the hopes of making things better across this province.
I hope they can hear their voices reflected in the bill that will be tabled later today. And I want to assure them that this is a step on our journey, not the end.
Mr. Speaker, today, with the introduction of legislation we—as a province—will say with ONE VOICE that racism and hate are not acceptable in Nova Scotia. We are providing a framework to guide us as we dismantle racism and eliminate hate in our province.
We are making Nova Scotia a stronger and better place for ALL Nova Scotians. I think that’s an important message to share, Mr. Speaker. When we say no to hate and racism, when we address long-standing inequity, we create conditions where everyone can thrive.
Mr. Speaker, when I began my remarks I recognized six Members of the Legislature from all three parties.
I want to close by telling them – through you – what a humbling and fulfilling experience it has been to have worked with them in this process.
I am thankful for the experience, and for the expertise that they each brought to this milestone legislation, and I am immensely proud of the work we produced.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.