Nova Scotia Youth Art - Human Rights

Wednesday, January 3, 2018 - 18:30

For the 50th Anniversary of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, youth aged 12-24 from across Nova Scotia submitted work on what human rights means to them. The work appeared in libraries and community centres in Nova Scotia, and at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport on digital displays. Select works were also featured on Halifax Transit bus interiors. We were pleased to have these young artist at our Human Rights Day and Awards on December 8, 2017 at Citadel High School. See the art work by scrolling down the page.

“We are all human regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, etc. and should be treated as such.” Jillian Connors, Truro, N.S.
“My art piece is about all races, genders and sexuality (etc.) being accepted in Nova Scotia. Also it is about what we can possibility accomplish in the next 50 years. I chose to cover this topic because I think human rights and equality are important and I would like to see everyone accepted in the next 50 years.” ~ Emily Rafuse, New Ross, N.S.
This piece “represents my closest friends. And how we see each others differences and we learn from them. We help each other.” ~ Neenah Johnson, Halifax, N.S.
 “My piece represents the fact that regardless of anyone’s gender identity, we are all equal and all deserve the same amount of respect.” ~ Olivia Crook-Simiana, Dartmouth, N.S.
“My piece is about religion. Because that is a thing that I had to hear and sometimes people thought that about me.”  ~ Islam Tahina, Wolfville, N.S.
 “My piece is about gender identity/gender expression. I decided to cover this topic because I know people who are trying to discover their gender identity. The purple hands represent people reaching out to find what’s truly on the inside.” ~ Cleah Cameron,  Halifax, N.S.
“My piece shows different religions and beliefs, as well as different genders and how Nova Scotians accept them with Peace.”
 ~ Bowen Stokesbury-Price, Wolfville, N.S.
This piece is about “perception of gender, of who we are and who we see.” ~ Andrew Fuller,  Kemptville, N.S.
“This piece is about..the rights of the transgender child/youth. She is breaking away from the box she’d been put inside her entire life and she is discovering she can be free in her true self.” ~ Lucy (Lucky) Sharpe, Fletcher's Lake, N.S. 
CaptionWho ignored their human rights?  The ant represents people and plants represent those who take the ant’s right. The plants on the ant are cordyceps militaris, a well-known medicinal plant in Asia. Cordyceps are parasitic fungus that grows on insects and use the host’s body for growth and development. ~ Yusang Cho, Halifax N.S.
“This piece is about being transgender and hiding that you are.” Trinity DeJong, Brookside N.S.
“This piece is about … ”the human rights of women around the world…. I am an African Nova Scotian young woman and I believe in advocating for all women.” ~ Manani Jones-Lamont, Halifax, N.S.
Art by Lacey Brown
“We are all equal no matter what our colour, religion or gender are.” ~ Lacey Brown, Grande-Pré, N.S.
“This is about how the way you are treated should not depend on the colour of your skin.” ~Milena Ramirez,
Wolfville, N.S.
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Settlement reached in Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission Complaint by Liane Tessier

Monday, December 18, 2017 - 14:04

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission (NSHRC), Halifax Regional Municipality, and Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency (HRFE) have settled a complaint filed by Liane Tessier alleging historic systemic discrimination based on gender.

As a result, there will be no further proceedings in this complaint.

“We’re sorry that Ms. Tessier had to go through such a lengthy process in order for this matter to come to resolution,” said Kymberly Franklin, Senior Legal Counsel at the NSHRC. “We credit her for sticking with her complaint. The investigation into this matter has been very thorough and now other female fire fighters in Nova Scotia should also benefit from the outcome."

“The Halifax Fire and Emergency Service has admitted that historic systemic discrimination took place based on gender as result of a complaint filed by Ms. Tessier,” said Ms. Franklin. “We commend them for taking steps to change their policies and practices to help prevent harassment and discrimination faced by female fire fighters.”

Ms. Tessier was a volunteer firefighter from 1998 to 2006. From January 2005 to May 2006, Ms. Tessier also worked as a paid casual firefighter. On May 21, 2008, Ms. Tessier filed a human rights complaint against the municipality and HRFE alleging discrimination based on gender. Her complaint was amended in 2014 to add historic systemic discrimination based on gender within the fire service.

Ms. Tessier’s personal human rights complaint of gender discrimination has been settled. In addition, the systemic discrimination complaint has also been settled, with assistance from the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. HRFE acknowledges there has been a systemic issue within the fire service concerning the treatment of female firefighters. The department is committed to ensuring this is addressed through the ongoing changes that have been made since the filing of Ms. Tessier’s complaint.

As part of the settlement, Fire Chief Ken Stuebing has formally apologized  to Ms. Tessier and to any other female firefighter who has experienced gender discrimination while a member of HRFE. “As an organization, we must ensure our female firefighters feel welcome, valued, and respected as members of our team,” said Chief Stuebing. “As the chief, it is my responsibility to ensure our workplace is free from all language and behaviours meant to hurt, undervalue, or discriminate.”

The fire service is committed to ensuring HRFE is a welcoming and accepting workplace for women. Initiatives include specialized training for firefighters, independent investigations of internal complaints filed against the fire service, and a strong focus on improving the number of female firefighters in the department.

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2017 Human Rights Awards - Recipients

Thursday, December 7, 2017 - 22:37

Each year, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission recognizes Nova Scotians nominated by their peers for work in the field of human rights, social justice and advocacy. This year is particularly special, given it is the commission’s 50th anniversary – the organization was established in 1967. The theme of the 50th anniversary is “Learning from our past, building for our future.” 

"We’ve come a long way since 1967, and we recognize that more progress is needed to ensure respect for human rights. This can only be realized in partnership with Nova Scotians,” said Christine Hanson, commission director and CEO. “We are fortunate to live in a province where we not only have human rights protections in law, but we also have passionate and engaged people like the individuals and organizations we honoured today.” The recipients are:


Joshua Cochrane, 11, Yarmouth, honoured for his work to foster an inclusive environment for persons with disabilities.

Premier Stephen McNeil with Joshua Cochrane
Premier Stephen McNeil presents award to Joshua Cochrane


At a very young age, Joshua Cochrane was diagnosed with autism. Now, at 11 years old, he uses his personal journey to show the world that people on the spectrum can do anything that they want to do and helping to foster a more inclusive environment for persons with disabilities.Josh has attended the World Autism Festival several times, which has enabled him to connect with his peers who have autism from over 60 different countries. He was featured in a documentary called Connected: A Film About Autism, which was screened in Hollywood, New York City and other cities around the world. Since the age of 2, Josh has used his musical talents to help raise awareness about childhood cancer, veterans, mental health, organ donations, stem cell/bone marrow donations, PTSD, Wounded Warriors Canada, Hospice, Relay for Life and Children's Miracle Network. By the time that he was 8 years old, Josh raised over $300,000 for various charities. He was recently one of four recipients of the 2017 Prince of Wales Youth Service Award. 


Wade Smith, Halifax, recognized posthumously for his leadership in human rights, inclusive education and community mentorship. 

Rev. Dr. Lennett Anderson presents Wade Smith's human rights award to his family
Rev. Dr. Lennett Anderson presents award to Wade Smith's wife Sherry and son Jaxon. 


Wade Smith embodied the “Each One, Teach One” philosophy and delighted in giving back to his community.  An educator, mentor, community activist, loving husband to Sherry and father to Jaydan and Jaxon, Wade was a passionate humanitarian who championed human rights for all. A proud African Nova Scotian, he attained a Bachelor of Arts from Saint Francis Xavier University, a Bachelor of Education from Saint Mary's University, and a Master of Education degree from Mount Saint Vincent University. As a teacher and principal in public school, adult and university education for over 25 years, Wade was genuinely concerned about all students, particularly marginalized youth.  He was solutions-focused; working conscientiously to create a safe learning environment that welcomed diversity, embraced equity and protected against discrimination and harassment. To fellow educators, he was a role model; leading the way on culturally proficient mentorship, curriculum and training development. 

A devout athlete, he gave back to the basketball world through coaching at the Community YMCA, high school, and Basketball NS which led to the pinnacle of his coaching career when he was named head coach of Nova Scotia's U-17 Boys Canada Games Team. As a mentor, Wade believed in setting goals, sharing his time and making a difference in the lives of everyone he encountered. He often expressed, "Giving back was not a choice. It was an obligation." "You get up everyday and go to work and make a difference in someone's life." Above all, Wade emphasized that his family was paramount. His wife and sons were his source of support and strength enabling him to enrich the lives of many Nova Scotians. Wade’s legacy lives on in the lives of all whom he inspired.

Angela Simmonds, Cherry Brook, Halifax Regional Municipality, recognized for her commitment to human rights by helping African Nova Scotian communities to obtain titles to their land. 

Tracey Jones-Grant presents award to Angela Simmonds 


Angela Simmonds believes that the law can be used as a tool to address discrimination, systemic racism and inequities in our society. She has become a legal expert on Preston land claims and issues relating to the Land Titles Clarification Act (LTCA). Because of her workhelping African Nova Scotians to obtain titles to their land that their families have lived on for generations, she appeared before a United Nations expert panel that subsequently echoed her recommendations in their preliminary report. She also worked closely with the Nova Scotia Community College to create a video on the subject that was recently awarded the Human Rights Amnesty Award. A JD graduate from the Dalhousie Schulich School of Law, Angela currently works for the Nova Scotia Legal Aid – Youth Office. She has previously worked for the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, Federal Prosecution Service Canada, the Department of Natural Resources, Schools Plus and the Halifax Regional School Board. She is a recipient of the 2017 Judge Corrine Sparks Award and the 2017 Dalhousie Legal Aid Service’s Sarah MacWalker MacKenzie Clinical Law Award

Nicole Doria, Halifax, a recent graduate of Dalhousie University, honoured for her commitment to promoting human rights in support of the health of Indigenous peoples

Commissioner Cheryl Knockwood presents award to Nicole Doria


Nicole Doria is a recent graduate of the Master of Health Promotion program at Dalhousie University and currently works in patient-oriented research at the Maritime SPOR Support Unit. Nicole holds leadership positions on the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre Board of Directors and the Indigenous Health Interest Group at Dalhousie, which aim to close the human rights gaps that exist for victims of sexualized violence and Indigenous peoples in Nova Scotia. Through her various roles, Nicole has become a strong advocate for improved Indigenous health and wellness, the advancement of an Indigenous curriculum, improved affirmative action policies, and the prevention of sexualized violence across the province. She is described as having a spirt of excellence, an incredible work ethic, a genuine ability to lead, and an inspirational desire to improve the world around her.


Syria-Antigonish Families Embrace (SAFE), a group in Antigonish recognized for its work to promote human rights by resettling Syrian refugee families. 

Minister of Immigration Lena Diab presents award to Syria-Antigonish Families Embrace


SAFE is a community initiative that has sponsored Syrian refugee families displaced from their homes by war and helped them to start a new life in Antigonish. It has a core organizing group of 20 people from all walks of life, but they are fortunate to have the active involvement and support of the larger community. Since May 2015, SAFE has sponsored four Syrian families with one more expected in early 2018 and another later in the year. The community has come together to secure and renovate housing; find furniture and clothing; connect the families with healthcare; settle the children in school and the adults in English language classes; help the adults to open bank accounts; and so much more. SAFE truly believes that the Syrian refugee families have helped Antigonish to become a better, more loving community and they are humbled by the generosity of all those who have supported the initiative.  

Bill 59 Community Alliance, recognized for its advocacy for the rights of persons with disabilities throughout the province.

Diana Whalen presents award to Bill 59 Community Alliance


The Bill 59 Community Alliance is a group of advocates that formed a single voice for persons with disabilities. It was supported by 35 organizations representing all disabilities. The Province of Nova Scotia invited the Alliance to help draft the Nova Scotia Accessibility Act. The first time such a collaborative legislative drafting process has been undertaken in the province. The result: perhaps the most progressive accessibility act in Canada with a stated goal to make the province fully accessible by 2030. It is the third such Act in Canada. It also profoundly changed the institutional landscape for supporting persons with disabilities, transforming it from a Social Service Model to a Human Rights Model. The Act resides with the Minister of Justice.

Women’s Wellness Within, Halifax, recognized for its work to promote the rights of incarcerated and criminalized women and their children. 

Commission Chair Eunice Harker presents award to Martha Paynter on behalf of Women's Wellness Within


Women’s Wellness Within is a non-profit organization that supports criminalized women and trans individuals who are pregnant or parenting young children in Nova Scotia. In addition to one-on-one client support, WWW facilitates monthly workshops on women’s health for imprisoned women; leads seminars for health professionals and students; and speaks publicly to raise consciousness of the rights and reproductive health experiences of criminalized women. WWW’s work also includes advocacy on behalf of criminalized women on issues, such as banning the solitary confinement of women; providing access to internet and phone for incarcerated women to communicate with their families and to develop health literacy; ensuring dignity and respect for imprisoned trans individuals; and developing alternatives to incarceration to advance reproductive justice and women's rights to parent. WWW's 50+ members include formerly incarcerated women, doulas, health care providers, lawyers, students, researchers and mentors. It works in close partnership with the Chebucto Family Centre, the Elizabeth Fry Societies of Cape Breton and Mainland Nova Scotia, the IWK Health Centre, and the Halifax Branch of the Women’s Legal Education Action Fund. 


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1967-2017 - 50th Anniversary of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission

Saturday, November 25, 2017 - 10:03


The Nova Scotia Human Commission was established in 1967 due to the racism faced by African Nova Scotians. Over the last 50 years, the Commission has assisted Nova Scotians facing discrimination and promoted respect for human rights and inclusivity in our province. We’ve seen evolutions in human rights law responding to the needs of our population. In our effort to advance human rights, we’ve protected family status and recognized the rights of same-sex couples. We’ve added sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to our protections. We developed a policy for breastfeeding mothers. We’ve helped women and girls play sports. We have helped employees and employers alike address the needs of persons with mental and physical disabilities in the workplace. We continue to address complex human rights cases, including those involving systemic racial discrimination working in cooperation with partners in the justice system.  These are just some examples and there are many more.

Anniversaries are time for reflection and renewal.

We recognize there is much to do. We continue to work to advance equity and dignity, foster positive and respectful relationships, and actively protect and promote the human rights of all Nova Scotians. As the Commission continues its work, we are making important investments in technology, such as those to develop elearning tools to address and prevent discrimination. For all Nova Scotians to prosper and flourish, an effort to promote respect for human rights and diversity is needed across all sectors and communities in our province. We are here to provide advice and guidance to all -- education and outreach continue to be a central part of our efforts.

Please stay tuned as we recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of Nova Scotians promoting human rights and as we reflect on how far we have come. You can follow us @NSHumanRights on Istagram and Twitter to receive our stories. We are also on Facebook: here.


Photo credit: Nova Scotia Archives
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Community Conversations with Dr. Scot Wortley on Street Checks

Tuesday, October 31, 2017 - 14:30

On September 18, 2017, The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission announced that it had selected Dr. Scot Wortley as the independent expert to examine Halifax police street check data related to persons of African descent.

The Commission will now host meetings with Dr. Scot Wortley and members of the African Nova Scotian/Black community. These meetings will provide an opportunity for those attending to meet Dr. Wortley and ask him questions, as well as contribute to and inform his process and analysis of the data.

Meeting Dates and Locations:

Monday, November 6, 2017: 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. - Cornwallis Street Baptist Church, 5457 Cornwallis St, Halifax, N.S.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017: 7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. - Black Cultural Centre, 10 Cherry Brook Rd, Cherry Brook, N.S.

Thursday, November 9, 2017:  7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. - North Preston Community Centre, 44 Simmonds Rd, North Preston, N.S.

For more information and to contact 902-424-7281 or

For more background information regarding this initiative and a bio for Dr. Wortley, please visit this page.


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Gender Markers and ID Documents: Community Consultation

Thursday, October 26, 2017 - 14:25

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and South House are partnering to hold a community consultation session about gender markers on ID documents. Have you encountered obstacles or challenges in changing your gender marker on your Nova Scotia ID? The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and South House invite people who identify as trans, intersex, non-binary, two-spirit, or other diverse gender identities and gender expressions to participate in a facilitated conversation about gender and provincial ID documents. The aim of this consultation is to increase understanding and foster communication between communities and government on this issue. We would love to hear your stories, your perspectives, and your concerns.

When: November 23, 2017. 6:30pm-8:00pm.

Where: South House Sexual and Gender Resource Centre. 1443 Seymour Street. Halifax.

South House is an accessible space, with an all gender washroom. Catering will be provided. Please RSVP by November 9 to If you are unable to attend, but would still like to provide comments, please let us know.

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Call For Nominations: 2017 Nova Scotia Human Rights Awards

Wednesday, October 11, 2017 - 13:20

On its 50th anniversary, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission invites Nova Scotians to nominate individuals or groups for the 2017 Human Rights Awards.

Deadline for nominations: Friday, Nov. 10, at 4:30 p.m.

The awards are presented annually by the Commission and Partners for Human Rights, a group of organizations dedicated to creating more respectful communities through promotion of human rights.

“This is a big year for the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. What better way to celebrate a 50th anniversary than to recognize those who drive positive social change,” said Mark Furey, Minister responsible for the Human Rights Commission. 
“I encourage Nova Scotians to nominate the individuals or organizations that are helping us build an inclusive province through respect for human rights.”

Nominations can be made in three categories: youth, individual (Dr. Burnley Allan "Rocky" Jones Award), and groups/organization and are for people or groups that support projects advancing human rights. Winners will be announced on December 8 during the province’s International Human Rights Day celebrations.

Please note that you cannot nominate someone who has received an award in the past five years. More information, including on past awardees, can be found here.

How to make a nomination: Download the nomination package, which can be found: here.

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Serious Concerns Raised by UN Regarding Systemic Discrimination Faced by African Nova Scotian

Monday, September 25, 2017 - 13:52

After visiting Nova Scotia and other parts of Canada last fall, a United Nations working group is raising serious concerns regarding ongoing systemic discrimination faced by people of African descent.

The UN Expert Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent is on the agenda to present its report to the UN Human Rights Council today, Sept. 25, and tomorrow in Geneva.

"The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission continues to see evidence of racism and discrimination faced by African Nova Scotians," said Christine Hanson, the commission's director and CEO. "We call on communities and governments at all levels to examine and develop policies and practices to address the report's recommendations."

In its published report, the working group stated that it is deeply concerned by the structural racism that lies at the core of many Canadian institutions and the systemic anti-Black racism that continues to have a negative impact on the human rights situation of African Canadians. Canada's history of enslavement, racial segregation and marginalization of African Canadians has left a legacy of anti-Black racism which must be addressed in partnership with the affected communities. African Nova Scotians make up the largest racially visible group in Nova Scotia.

Among its observations, touching on human rights, justice, employment, health and other areas, the report also recognizes efforts in Nova Scotia to improve the situation of people of African descent. For instance, it welcomed the restorative inquiry for the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children, as a model of collaborative and restorative approaches in addressing issues affecting people of African descent. The working group also expressed concerns over the lack of implementation of the Land Title Clarification Act, which is aimed at resolving outstanding land claim issues within historically Black communities. The Nova Scotia government will make an announcement on this issue later this week. "The commission is pleased the government is taking action to address this long-standing issue and looks forward to an announcement with greater detail later in the week," said Ms. Hanson.

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Act mandates the commission to address allegations of racism and discrimination and build inclusive communities through human rights public education. The commission recently announced that it hired independent expert Scot Wortley to examine Halifax police street check data and to make policy recommendations to the Halifax Police Board of Commissioners. In March, the commission launched an education campaign in partnership with the Nova Scotia business community, Serving All Customers Better, free online training for front line retail staff to address and prevent consumer racial profiling. The training has already reached thousands of people. "We are grateful that the UN Expert Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent came to Nova Scotia," said Ms. Hanson. "We welcome their recommendations as they will help inform our work with partners, stakeholders and the community."

The United Nations Decade for People of African Descent runs until 2024. The UN, in proclaiming this decade, recognizes that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected.

The working group's report that will be presented to Human Rights Council is publicly available on the United Nations high commissioner for human rights website at:

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