Nova Scotia

New white African Nova Scotian Affairs minister ready to be 'a voice' for Black community

Pat Dunn said he understands the concerns of people who think the post should be filled by someone who is Black and he’s ready to listen.

Pat Dunn says all initiatives in place prior to election will move forward

Pat Dunn is the minister responsible for the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs and the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives. (CBC)

As a white man, Nova Scotia's new African Nova Scotian Affairs minister says he knows that he has work to do to gain the trust of the community he's tasked to support.

But Pat Dunn said he's ready to do just that.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge," he told reporters Thursday following a cabinet meeting in Halifax.

"I'm looking forward to meeting people in the community, earning their trust, listening to their advice and being a voice for them — and not just a voice, a strong voice."

The Pictou Centre MLA said he understands the concerns of people who think the post should be filled by someone who is Black. He said he's ready to listen.

"My intention is to reach out to as many community organizations and key stakeholders to, I guess, to learn, to understand."

Work will continue as planned

Dunn's appointment to the post followed the election win for the Tories last month. While the Progressive Conservatives elected 31 MLAs, none are Black.

Premier Tim Houston has previously said he thinks cabinet positions should be held by elected officials from the government side of the House.

Further frustrating and angering some members of the Black community, however, is that the woman who served as deputy minister for the Office of African Nova Scotia Affairs prior to the election — a Black woman — was replaced by a white man by the Tories.

Dunn said he believes the department has "a very strong nucleus" and the main mission is for people to know the work that was happening prior to the election will continue, including initiatives focused on equity and anti-racism.

He didn't consider turning down the role, said Dunn.

"I am from a community where there is an African Nova Scotian community in my constituency. I have had the opportunity to have lots of dialogue and listen to them over the years as a school administrator, as a coach and as a community member with various groups and events in the community."

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.