Nova Scotia

Ex-minister of African Nova Scotian affairs questions naming of white man to role

Tony Ince said Pat Dunn is a "reasonable person" with whom he has worked well in the past, but he believes more consultation with African Nova Scotia was needed before this decision was made.

Tony Ince held minister of African Nova Scotian affairs position in previous Liberal governments since 2013

Tony Ince, the former Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs has said more should have been done to consult the African Nova Scotian community before choosing Pat Dunn. (CBC)

Although Tony Ince said he believes it's more appropriate for a Black person to hold his old job, the former minister of African Nova Scotian affairs expressed respect for the man tapped by Premier Tim Houston for the post.

Ince, who held the position in previous Liberal governments since 2013, said Pat Dunn is a "reasonable person" with whom he has worked well in the past.

"I've worked with him across the floor and we've always had a good rapport," Ince said in an interview Friday.

Ince described Dunn as a "listener."

"To have him there in that position — he's somebody I believe I can at least work with," he said.

More consultation

But the Liberal Opposition member said the Tories should have waited and consulted more with the African Nova Scotian community before deciding to name a white man to the job. It will be difficult, Ince said, for someone who is not Black to run the office given the "current climate."

"We are not in a space right now where someone who is not of the community could sit in there and really be an ally because we have so many more conversations to have around the issue of race and disparities," Ince said.

He also questioned the removal of Kesa Munroe-Anderson, former deputy minister of communities, culture and heritage, who Ince said was a key member of the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs. Munroe-Anderson was part of a purge of several deputy ministers announced by the new government on Tuesday.

"They removed a deputy minister I thought would have been able to help them truly understand some of the challenges that the community faces," he said.

Ince said he is willing to see how things develop and stressed that he and the three other African Nova Scotian opposition members of the legislature stand ready to hold the government to account and to "remind them of some of the issues that they need to address."

Houston has said that despite criticism on social media calling his decision to appoint Dunn as "tone deaf," his party ran a diverse slate, although none of the Tories' three Black candidates were elected. He has maintained that it is important for ministers in his cabinet to be elected and accountable.

The premier told reporters following a cabinet meeting on Thursday that his government was looking at options for senior advisers to help the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs and other levels of the government and civil service.

"I take the concerns of the community very seriously," Houston said. "But in terms of the very specific question about the cabinet — we have our cabinet."

The Houston government continues to face criticism over the new minister for African Nova Scotian affairs, who is white. Thoughts on that from a diversity specialist. 7:39

A lost opportunity

A spokeswoman in the premier's office said Dunn hasn't been available for comment since his swearing-in on Tuesday because he has been dealing with an urgent family matter.

Speaking on her own behalf and not her organization, Vanessa Fells, the director of operations for the African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent Coalition, said there is a level of disappointment within her community that Houston did not see the significance of having a diverse cabinet.

Fells said the premier was not restricted in who he could have chosen to head the office under the province's rules. She called it "sad" that an opportunity appears to have been lost.

"He had the ability to set a precedent that could have set the stage for Nova Scotian politics for years to come," she said. "With the changing landscape of the world in terms of Black Lives Matter and making sure that government is equitable and inclusive — again, a new precedent could have been set."

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