The hiring of a white person to lead the Africville Heritage Trust has angered some members of Nova Scotia's black community.
The trust is in charge of building a church and museum to document the destruction of the historic black community on the Bedford Basin in Halifax.
The successful candidate is Carole Nixon, an Anglican minister. She has extensive fundraising experience from 25 years as an economic development officer.
But Rocky Jones, a well-known black Nova Scotia lawyer and human rights activist, said it's wrong to hire a white person to head up the Africville Heritage Trust.
"You would never get a man hired as the executive director of a women's organization. It would be unheard of. It just wouldn't happen," he said Thursday.
"Yet to have a white person as the executive director of a black organization seems appropriate to some people. I disagree."
Africville was first settled in the 1830s when former American slaves and other black people moved to the area.
It was neglected by the former City of Halifax and became run-down over the years. In the 1960s, the city evicted the residents and bulldozed their homes so part of the land could be used for a new bridge over Halifax harbour.
The construction of a new church and museum is part of official restitution to surviving members of that community. That will cost $11 million, money that still needs to be raised.
Race not a factor
Daurene Lewis, chairwoman of the Africville Heritage Trust, said race had no bearing on the hiring.
"We required somebody with project management skills, financial management skills, plus fundraising skills and experience in all three areas," she said.
"And of all the people who applied for the position, she was the most qualified candidate."
But Jones said dwelling on those qualifications misses more important issues of identity and experience.
"How can a white person, and a white person from outside of Nova Scotia, how can they possibly be able to understand and articulate what's happening to us, and what it means to us? Because they are not us. It's impossible," he said.
Nixon said she doesn't take the controversy personally. She hopes the negative publicity won't scare away potential donors.