A job creation group that has been finding employment for black Nova Scotians for more than 30 years says cuts to its office by the provincial government amount to 'systemic racism'.
The Watershed Association Development Enterprises, better known as WADE, spoke out against the loss of its funding Monday morning.
"This is a clear sort of attack of systemic racism," said Brenton Sparks, a WADE board member. "We've been dealing with it for years and we've had enough."
Since 1983, young African Nova Scotians who live in North and East Preston, Cherry Brook and Lake Loon have relied on WADE to help them find jobs. But that is going to change because the government is restructuring the program.
Call to restore funding
WADE board members are demanding the provincial government change their plan to shuffle funding away from their office.
"It just appears that everything African Nova Scotians want, we have to fight for," said Sparks.
Sparks says the six people that work out of the WADE office will be gone as of July 1st. But the board says – more importantly – young black men and women in the area won't have experienced people looking out for their interests.
"We ask what's the rationale, because they have not given us one for denying WADE the funding to carry on the vital work in the Preston area," said Reverend Wayne Desmond, a WADE board member.
Redesigning the program
Nova Scotia's Labour and Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan says the province is transforming its Careers Nova Scotia system — the program that includes WADE.
And she says the accusation of racism isn't accurate.
Right now, about 50 per cent of the funds for the provincial program are spent on administration, said Regan.
"We want to put more resources on the front lines to help Nova Scotians find good jobs."
YMCA to work in community
The YMCA will now be in charge of the decision making and funds that WADE has handled for the last three decades.
Regan says the old system had inconsistent standards and staff qualifications.
"At the end of the day, in their particular area, the YMCA had the best proposal by far," said Regan.
"At this point we're working with the Y and hoping to work with the community to make sure there's good representation and good careers resources in the Preston area."
She adds that under the new model, four African Nova Scotian organizations will be providing services.
But WADE says that means a lot of valuable job-finding experience will be gone from the area.
Continue to fight
WADE isn't planning to sit back and let this go away.
The board says they will continue to fight the decision and will be coming up with ways to protest the government's move.
"The government has to come with something better than what they've been coming with," said Sparks. "We as a people are not standing for it anymore."