Sunday, October 17, 2021

Cabinet appointment backlash
Local Black councillor says she will judge by performance, not skin colour

  • September 8 2021
  • By Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    

GUYSBOROUGH – Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston named his cabinet on Aug. 31.

Prior to the announcement, there was speculation about who would fill the position of Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs, particularly as no Progressive Conservative MLA elected last month is Black.

When the cabinet was announced, it was Pat Dunn, a seasoned politician who has represented Pictou Centre since 2006, who was appointed minister for Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage; African Nova Scotian Affairs; the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives; and the Voluntary Sector.

After the swearing-in of cabinet, Houston responded to questions from the media about his choice for these portfolios by stating, “Our democracy works best when the people that are elected are put into positions of accountability,” the CBC reported.

Following the announcement, social media erupted with comments of shock and anger about the decision to appoint Dunn, a 71-year-old white man, and traditional news media stories about the backlash followed.

The Municipality of the District of Guysborough is the only municipal unit in the province to have a council seat dedicated to the representation of Black communities within its boundaries: Lincolnville, Sunnyville and Upper Big Tracadie. The seat is held by Mary Desmond of Upper Big Tracadie.

The Journal asked Desmond for her reaction to the naming of Dunn, and she responded via email: “I don’t think anyone in the African Nova Scotia community is surprised that the position of African Nova Scotia Affairs would be held by a non-African descendent person. Would I have like an African Nova Scotian person to fill this position, of course, I would. Because they would have lived and shared our experiences but saying that, sometimes life throws people a ‘curveball.’

“We have to adapt; African Nova Scotians have been resilient for over 400 plus years. Our new minister, Pat Dunn, is mature and hopefully compassionate, sympathetic and full of empathy. I hope he will be open-minded and listen to African Nova Scotians. I will not judge him on the colour of his skin but on his actions. Congratulations, Minister Dunn.”