Nova Scotia

PC leadership candidate says sorry in legislature for Jamaica pot comments

Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin formally apologized in the Nova Scotia Legislature for comments she made last spring disparaging Jamaicans by claiming marijuana use in the country was so widespread it hurt its productivity.

MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin made remarks in April during debate on marijuana legislation

MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin is shown at Province House on Friday. (Jean Laroche/CBC News)

A PC leadership candidate has formally apologized in the Nova Scotia Legislature for comments she made last spring disparaging Jamaicans by claiming marijuana use in the country was so widespread it hurt its productivity.

Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin rose in legislature Friday to make a brief statement.

"Mr. Speaker, I rise to apologize for remarks I made in the previous sitting during debate on cannabis legislation," she said. "I am sincerely sorry for my remarks and retract them."

Speaking to CBC outside the House, Smith-McCrossin said her apology stemmed from a realization her words had been harmful.

"It hurt a lot of people from Jamaica," she said.

'Learned to be more sensitive'

She said that realization came after meeting with representatives from Nova Scotia's black community, including members of the Jamaican Cultural Association Nova Scotia.

"It's helped me to understand how our comments in the legislature, when we give examples we need to, we do need to be sensitive of stereotypes," she said.

"And I've certainly learned a lot from them. Learned to be more sensitive and thoughtful."

Smith-McCrossin is running for the PC Party leadership against four other candidates. A new leader will be picked at a convention in Halifax on Oct. 27.

During debate in April on the Cannabis Control Act, Nova Scotia's law governing the sale and use of marijuana, Smith-McCrossin related a story about how a Jamaican-born friend in her constituency was worried about the legalization of pot.

"She said to me, 'Elizabeth, smoking marijuana in Jamaica is completely accepted, and there's a completely different work ethic and very low productivity in Jamaica.' I think we already have a productivity problem here in Nova Scotia. We do not need something else making it worse."

That friend, Donna Gogan, refuted those comments as "completely inaccurate."

Stands by recollection

On Friday, Smith-McCrossin stood by her recollection of that conversation and denied having misinterpreted it. But she said she should not have shared a private conversation on the floor of the legislature.

"She's a good friend and she's from that country, and I shouldn't have given an example from that country because then there's the stereotype that's encompassing all people of that country and that certainly was not my intention," Smith-McCrossin said.

"It's probably been one of the hardest times of my political career knowing that I hurt her."

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