Nova Scotia wants to hire more black and Indigenous jail guards
Retired corrections captain welcomes push for diversity, but says more needs to be done to attract candidates
Nova Scotia's Justice Department wants to hire more African-Nova Scotian and Indigenous correctional workers for casual relief positions in its four adult provincial jails.
The department is currently advertising the positions for its jails in Dartmouth, Yarmouth, Cape Breton and Pictou County, hiring that is restricted to black and Indigenous applicants. The pay range for the jobs is $24.40 to $29.91 per hour.
In an earlier competition, the department shortlisted 29 applicants and hired six. Two more candidates from that group later re-applied and were accepted in a different round of hiring.
Mike Sampson, the manager of training and development for the province, said he's expecting eight to 10 candidates from this latest competition to go through the complete process and be hired.
"In 2016, looking at some of our stats we knew that the percentage of African-Nova Scotian and Aboriginal offenders in custody, as throughout the rest of Canada, is higher than a percentage within the province," Sampson said.
But he said the proportion of correctional officers who are black or Indigenous is much lower, and the department believes it's important "all Nova Scotians could see themselves reflected in the justice system."
Kevin Brooks, who is black and is a former captain at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Dartmouth, said he thinks it's good the department wants to bring more diversity into the jails, but said these should be full-time positions to attract and retain these workers.
"There's been many that I've seen, African-Nova Scotians there working and left for different reasons," he said.
"The applicants would be not that many because if you look at the position you could be gone at any time. There's no security, there's not a whole lot of appeal.… I mean there's not many people who are looking to get into corrections."
After working 28 years in corrections, three of them in Alberta, Brooks retired in January 2013, much earlier than he expected.
In 2017, he settled a human rights complaint against the Justice Department over racial discrimination he said he encountered from the start of his career as a correctional officer.
Brooks is not allowed to disclose details of the settlement. However, in his 2012 complaint Brooks — who had been a captain at the jail since 1997 — alleged that he was passed over for promotion because of his race.
He said senior management needs to better listen to the people who work under them.
"They're looking to have diversity when it comes to appearance, but when it comes to input, diversity is not there," he said.
The number of African-Nova Scotian and Indigenous correctional staff and offenders
- African-Nova Scotians represent two per cent of the province's population but 11 per cent of adults admitted to custody (remand and sentenced custody) in provincial jails in 2017-18.
- Indigenous people represent six per cent of the Nova Scotia population but eight per cent of adults admitted to custody (remand and sentenced custody) in provincial jails in 2017-18.
- Of the 653 correctional staff in Nova Scotia's adult and youth facilities, 15 (2.3 per cent) self-identify as Aboriginal and 35 (5.4 per cent) self-identify as African-Nova Scotian.
Source: Nova Scotia Department of Justice