Kings County towns asked to join regional diversity initiative
Wolfville, Kentville and Berwick called on by county to help fund 5-year plan
Some towns in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley are being asked to join a regional diversity initiative aimed at making communities more inclusive and equitable.
The Municipality of Kings County wants to collaborate with Berwick, Kentville and Wolfville to implement its "Strategy for Belonging" over the next five years.
The document would guide municipal policies and priorities in each community to improve representation and economic empowerment, ensure equitable access to services and celebrate diverse cultures.
"The doors aren't as wide open as they should be," said Peter Muttart, the mayor of the Municipality of Kings County.
County staff spent nearly two years developing the plan through consultation with municipal staff and community stakeholders, including members of marginalized communities such as the Mi'kmaq and Black Nova Scotians.
"We've listened," said Muttart. "This report is a consolidation of all of that information."
He said the county is ready to get staff working on the initiative, but it needs other towns to help chip in.
Kings County is asking Berwick, Kentville and Wolfville to pay for 30 per cent of the initiative's $230,000 annual cost.
The towns are considering whether to participate as they go through budget deliberations.
Kings County is home to several historic Black communities. Gibson Woods was founded by a Black Loyalist and Pine Woods was founded by family of a New England slave at the start of the 19th century. Glooscap First Nation and the Annapolis Valley First Nation are also in the county.
The Valley African Nova Scotian Development Association, which focuses on creating employment opportunities for marginalized community members, helped develop the strategy.
CEO Robert Ffrench commends the county.
"I don't think that there has been another document of this type from any rural municipality in Nova Scotia, ever," Ffrench said. "So, just that simple fact gives us, as a non-profit, grassroots organization, the belief that this is an actual meaningful document."
Ffrench said rural Nova Scotia has traditionally been a place that's not welcoming to people of colour.
"This region is no different from any other rural region," he said. "It has traditional thoughts and values that are, in a 21st-century setting, outdated."
Addressing racism and diversity can be more difficult in rural areas because communities are disconnected, Ffrench said. He said that's why local governments need to collaborate on initiatives like the regional strategy.
A core element of the strategy, Ffrench said, encourages governments to recognize and consider the experiences of marginalized people in Kings County when making decisions that affect the community.
"In my mind, it's going to be a wonderful template for other rural areas to follow," he said.
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.
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