Statement from the Director & CEO: Human Rights Through Our Eyes

Feb 11, 2022

2022 marks the 38th year of African Heritage Month in Nova Scotia. Annually, this month provides an opportunity to reflect on the immense contributions of African Nova Scotians and persons of African descent to the social, cultural, political, and economic fabric of our province.

While African Heritage Month invites us to acknowledge and celebrate the legacies of African Nova Scotians and communities of African descent, we must begin to look beyond February in order to be better allies and champions of human rights.

Nova Scotia is the birthplace of African presence in Canada, and for as long as Black people have been a part of this society, they have never stopped advocating for their human rights and those of others. The Black Lives Matter and other community-led movements have further underscored an open secret of racial injustices, direct and systemic discrimination, and everyday anti-Black racism that generations of African Nova Scotians continue to experience.

It is important that we pause and reflect on the historic and contemporary realities and experiences of persons of African ancestry throughout the month of February. However, the experiences of discrimination in the pursuit of equity, the struggle for survival in the face of adversity, the resilience demonstrated in building a just and inclusive society and the hope that all people will be treated with dignity regardless of the colour of their skin, must be front and centre always.

For the Human Rights Commission, this year’s theme - Through Our Eyes: The Voices of African Nova Scotians - is a reminder that as we continue to protect and advance human rights for all Nova Scotians, we must herald the voices and lived experiences of African Nova Scotians and persons of African descent. As this theme recognizes the legacies of people of African descent through first voice, lived realities, and experiences, we remain committed to honouring this in our interactions with members of the African Nova Scotian community and across all communities we serve.

I invite you to join us on Tuesday, March 8 at 7:00 p.m. AST for a conversation with Senator Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard entitled “Human Rights Through our Eyes” in recognition of the theme of this year’s African Heritage Month and the necessity for us to acknowledge the context in which we consider human rights in this province.

Kymberly Franklin, Senior Legal Counsel for the Commission, will host Senator Thomas Bernard for an intimate discussion centring the voices and lived experiences of Black people in our region regarding efforts to protect and advance human rights. The conversation will explore a collaborative way forward toward the goal of advancing equity and dignity and protecting the human rights of African Nova Scotians and persons of African descent.

This event will be live-streamed via the Commission’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

The Honourable Wanda Thomas Bernard,

Ph.D., C.M., O.N.S.

Senator – Nova Scotia (East Preston)

Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard is the first African Nova Scotian woman to be appointed to the Senate of Canada, representing the province of Nova Scotia and her hometown of East Preston. Senator Bernard champions issues impacting African Canadians and people living with disabilities. She is particularly invested in human rights, employment equity, and mental health. Through her involvement in community projects, her social work career, her time with Dalhousie School of Social Work, and now her work in the Senate, Senator Bernard has maintained a deep dedication to social justice and racial justice. Senator Bernard advocates for reparations for the historic and continued anti-Black racism impacting the lives of African Canadians in her work.

The preceding is a statement from Joseph Fraser, Director & CEO of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission