Nova Scotia

Former staffer pushes for more diversity at top of NSTU

A former senior staffer at the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is calling for a change at the top to better reflect the diversity of Nova Scotia.

Union set to meet this weekend with no resolutions specifically focused on minority representation

Adela Njie is advocating for more diversity at the top of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. (Adela Njie)

Adela Njie no longer works for the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, nor is she even a rank-and-file member.

But that doesn't temper her desire to see change at the top of the organization she once championed.

Njie worked for the NSTU in a term position from 2015 until earlier this year. She left in January after she was named by the union to a commission on inclusive education.

She has since returned to the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial as a student services co-ordinator. She is now a member of the Public School Administrators Association.

In an email to delegates to this weekend's NSTU annual council meeting, Njie bemoans what she sees as a lack of action to "address systematic barriers such as white privilege."

"I am still trying to understand why is this happening now, when diversity and inclusive practices are being implemented nationally and provincially," she writes.

Later, in her message to her former union colleagues, she poses a number of rhetorical questions.

"Can a visible minority ever be President of the NSTU? Will visible minorities ever be in a position of privilege, so they can access employment as executives? Who will be their voice on the Provincial Executive and on the Executive Staff?"

'I was the first minority to be hired'

Njie said the union has always been run by a whites-only executive and almost always by a non-diverse executive staff.

"From my knowledge there hasn't been a diverse person or a visible minority on the provincial executive since the beginning of the NSTU and, on staff, I was the first minority to be hired," she said.

She suggests part of the answer is to reserve a seat on the executive for a member of a visible minority group.

Waiting for someone to be elected to the position isn't likely to work, according to Njie. She doesn't believe a visible minority would be able to garner enough support to be elected to the provincial executive.

Paul Wozney said he is committed to trying to bring people from diverse communities into the union's governing structure. (Submitted by Nova Scotia Teachers Union)

Paul Wozney, NSTU president, considers Njie's message as "positive encouragement" for what the union is already doing to try to be more inclusive.

He said there's already talk about designating a seat as the union tries to reorganize after a government-forced change to its membership.

Principals and other administrators have been forced into another professional association that is affiliated with the NSTU, but not part of the union.

Union president says he's committed to diversity

Wozney said he is committed to trying to bring people from diverse communities into the union's governing structure.

"You can talk about equity," he said. "You can talk about valuing diversity but until you take concrete, meaningful steps it's just talk. I'm not an expert in diversity but as a as a new president I have pursued this with vigour."

Wozney said he expects a report on the new union structure this year but isn't ruling out a change between now and then.

About 250 union delegates will be gathering in Halifax this weekend. None of the 74 resolutions up for debate deals directly with diversity.

Njie is hoping her message spurs one of the delegates to propose the change.