Nova Scotia·Nova Scotia Votes

Election sign for Black candidate burned, destroyed in Truro

Police in Truro, N.S., are investigating after an election sign supporting Liberal candidate Tamara Tynes Powell, the only Black person running in the riding of Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River, was burned and destroyed early Sunday.

Police investigating after sign supporting Liberal candidate Tamara Tynes Powell discovered Sunday

Election signs of Black Liberal candidate vandalized in Nova Scotia

2 years ago
Duration 2:16
Tamara Tynes Powell, the Liberal candidate for a Truro-area riding, says the act of violence isn't setting her back.

Police in Truro, N.S., are investigating after a provincial election sign was damaged early Sunday morning.

The Truro Police Service got the call about the damaged sign supporting Liberal candidate Tamara Tynes Powell around 3 a.m. local time.

Posts on social media show a large election sign torn and burned, and the wooden stakes supporting it pulled from the ground. 

Powell, who is running in the district of Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River, is the only Black candidate in the riding.

"It's obvious that the actions of those few individuals that destroyed my signs, they're wanting to instil hate, they're wanting to instil fear," Powell said in an interview. "It's a way to cause people to not want to speak up."

Tamara Tynes Powell, Liberal candidate for Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River, says she will not let the vandalism of her campaign signs distract her from the election. (CBC)

She said in addition to the large sign that was burned, another was torn down and trampled on and a third was missing entirely. Powell said the destruction of the signs had an emotional impact on her.

"I had to shut down for a little bit last night to kind of regroup, regain my strength and try to cleanse some of that negativity out of me that had been collected all day from these negative actions of a few in the community."

But Powell said the setback won't deter her from her campaign.

"The more negativity that comes up, the more fire is going to fuel my flame because I'm not going to stop. Hate will never stop me."

A burnt campaign sign for Liberal candidate Tamara Tynes Powell is seen lying on the ground. The destroyed sign was found in Truro, N.S., early Sunday morning. Police are investigating. (Lenore Zann/Facebook)

Powell said she believes the majority of the community does not stand for violence and vandalism. She's received an outpouring of love and solidarity from people in the Truro area, as well as the wider province.

Thinking back to last June, Powell recalled 3,000 people of all backgrounds coming together for the Truro Black Lives Matter march.

Powell said she's hopeful anyone looking at her experience will actually be encouraged, and not deterred, to be part of the solution and run themselves.

"Never let hate be the determining factor of why you don't pursue something, because hate will never win. Love will always win over hate," Powell said.

Area MP condemns 'acts of hatred'

Liberal MP Lenore Zann, who represents the area's federal riding of Cumberland-Colchester, wrote in a Facebook post Sunday that she had talked to Powell earlier in the day and Powell told her she was excited because she had just received her election signs.

Zann said she drove by the large sign at the intersection of Ford and Robie streets around midnight and it was intact. An hour and a half later, though, it was not.

"The large fence posts that were holding it up had been dragged out of the ground and the sign dragged about five feet where it had been chopped up and set on fire," Zann wrote. 

"A neighbour came out to tell me that he had heard chopping sounds, but didn't know what it was. Then a bit later his wife smelled smoke and looked out the window and saw a fire truck putting out a fire in that corner.… We could still smell the smoke."

Zann questioned the motivation of the person responsible for destroying the signs, noting the burnt sign was at the entrance to one of Truro's traditionally Black communities.

Powell said she is grateful for Zann's support, and for helping give a voice to the situation when her own emotions were running too high to express herself fully on Sunday.

A patch of grass was burned when an election sign was set ablaze early Sunday morning. (CBC)

"This is pure old right-wing racist hate rearing its ugly head once more," Zann wrote. "These acts of hatred are meant to intimidate people."

"What message is this supposed to send to the Black community and diverse young women who take the challenge to run for office?"

Powell is running against Darlene DeAdder for the NDP, Dave Ritcey for the PC Party and Shaun Trainor for the Greens.

DeAdder said in a Facebook post she was "deeply saddened" to hear of the vandalism. "Our community is one of kindness, and helping others. Destroying of campaign materials is not reflective of this."

Ritcey wrote that he was "saddened and deeply concerned by the unacceptable vandalism" of his opponent's signs, and that "we are united against hate, vandalism and violence."

Trainor posted that he was concerned but unsurprised to hear of the incident. "Let's not mince words," he wrote on Facebook. "This was a hate crime. We must acknowledge this and actively work to eradicate hate and racism in our society."

Town has made 'a lot of progress'

The deputy mayor of Truro, Wayne Talbot, said the act of destruction is shocking, but he doesn't believe racist sentiment is widespread in Truro.

"I don't want to paint Truro as a town that has a bunch of racists," said Talbot, who is Black.

He said he experienced discrimination growing up in the town.

"I remember when we couldn't get a haircut, I remember when we couldn't go to the golf course, and if we did, we went there as caddies, we had to go out to the back door to get an order of french fries," he said.

"So, sure, there's been a history, but there's also been a lot of progress that's been made over the years."

Talbot said the town condemns the destruction of the signs "in the strongest fashion."

Police are asking anyone who has information about the incident to contact them by phone, through Facebook or Crime Stoppers.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

With files from the CBC's Shaina Luck and Radio-Canada's Héloïse Rodriguez-Qizilbash