Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia town councillor admits using N-word, but says it's not a 'profanity'

The Amherst, N.S., town council has decided not to reprimand a veteran councillor and mayoral candidate who admitted to using a racial slur.

Council won't take any action against white councillor who said, 'I'm not your n--ger'

'I have no idea why that word would have come to mind,' Coun. George Baker said of his racial slur. 'It's not a word I ever use.' (CBC)

A town council in Nova Scotia has decided not to reprimand a veteran councillor, police board member and mayoral candidate who admitted to using a racial slur.

George Baker is a councillor in Amherst, a town of nearly 10,000 near the New Brunswick border. Baker, who is white, admits he said, "I'm not your n--ger" in July while working a side job delivering pizzas. He said it to staff at Bambino's Pizzeria.

Baker also sits on the Amherst Board of Police Commissioners and is currently running for mayor. 

In a written statement handed out before a special council meeting Monday night, Baker said, "I did not use any swear words or profanity."

'I feel I have full support'

Baker said that after using the slur, he immediately told staff at Bambino's, "No one should ever say that word. I'm sorry."

"I have no idea why that word would have come to mind," he wrote in a statement. "It's not a word I ever use."

Baker also said in his statement that he has spoken to "virtually all of my African-Canadian constituents" since the incident.

"I feel I have full support from those people that know me so well," he wrote. 

I think that comment brought this town back into the 1800s.- Holly Martin

On Friday, Baker told CBC News that he'd already apologized to the black community in Amherst. "And they all told me there was no need to apologize to them because I did nothing wrong."

'We are in trouble,' says black resident

CBC News heard from two black residents of Amherst who disagreed with Baker.

"I think that comment brought this town back into the 1800s," Holly Martin said.

Hal Davidson, another member of the town's black community, wrote a formal letter to council asking it to conduct an independent review.

"We are in trouble, if we're in a situation in this province where people can make whatever comments and they're not held accountable through the governing bodies that they represent," Davidson said.

"Keep in mind, this is not 1900. It is 2016."

Hal Davidson says Baker's role on the police board gives him concerns about how any complaints against officers would be handled. (CBC)

Davidson said Baker's role with the police board adds to his worries. 

"I really have a concern that a person who makes this kind of comment would be entertaining any kind of complaint that I would put in to the police commission of how I was treated," he said. 

Council takes no action

But at a meeting Monday night in Amherst, the council decided it had no authority to deal with any racist comments councillors might make outside of their official duties.

"I think we took the right steps," said sitting Mayor Rob Small. "It's one of those cases where no other council has had to deal with it."

At one point in the meeting, the mayor opened the floor to a motion on whether council should consider any action against Baker.

Only one councillor offered to make a motion: George Baker raised his own hand to suggest council not deal with it.

Small told him it "may not be appropriate" for Baker to move such a motion.

Amherst Mayor Rob Small says his council 'took the right steps' in not rebuking Baker for using a racial slur. (CBC)

Council took the advice of its solicitor not to reprimand Baker, and said it would review its policies.

The solicitor told council that the provincial Municipal Affairs Act contains no mechanism to deal with elected officials who make racist comments outside of council business.

In a statement on Tuesday, Small said the town will continue to work toward the elimination of racism in the community and again blamed a lack of policy for why the town council didn't take action against Baker. 

'There is only one race'

"The decision council made was to review our policies to make them more robust," said Small. "Hopefully we'll get those in place and deal with a lesson learned."

Baker will have to face the police commission on the matter though. As a member of the Amherst Board of Police Commissioners, Baker will be subject to that body's code of conduct.   

After Baker uttered the slur, the news spread through social media. He said much of it was false.

"I have always believed there is only one race," he added in his statement. "The human race."

Baker issued a public statement about his use of the racial slur. (George Baker)

About the Author

Preston Mulligan has been a reporter in the Maritimes for more than 20 years. Along with his reporting gig, he also hosts CBC Radio's Sunday phone-in show, Maritime Connection.