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

Sep 25, 2017

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: