Nova Scotia

Premier looking to appoint new deputy minister responsible for African Nova Scotian affairs

Houston’s government created controversy in its early days when he appointed a minister and deputy minister, neither of whom are Black, to the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs.

Tim Houston recently met with a group of Black community leaders and listened to their concerns

Premier Tim Houston says he wants to ensure the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs serves the community. (CBC)

The position of deputy minister responsible for the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs will be revisited, Premier Tim Houston said Thursday, following criticism that the role is held by someone who is not Black.

Houston's government created controversy in its early days when he appointed Pat Dunn, who is white, as minister responsible for the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs and the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives. 

The decision to also appoint someone who is not Black to the position of deputy minister sparked a strongly worded letter from community leaders and a recent meeting with Houston and Dunn.

None of the Tories' Black candidates were elected in August's election. While Houston has said the members of his cabinet will be made up of people elected to his caucus, he said change will come to the deputy minister role.

"I would say that this was something that we had identified, and we accept [members of the Black community's] concerns on that and they'll see some action there," Houston told reporters Thursday following a cabinet meeting.

An apology

Black Family Meeting, a group of more than 300 Black Nova Scotians, met in the lead-up to the meeting with Houston and Dunn to focus its concerns.

Carolann Wright, a spokesperson for the group, told CBC News in a recent interview the meeting was an important step in bringing concerns directly to Houston, and that the group is awaiting further conversation and response.

The premier said the message he shared during the meeting was that he was sorry his actions caused pain.

"It's clear to me that decisions that I took offended the community. It was not my intention to offend anyone and I apologize for offending them," he said.

Meeting participants presented Houston with a roadmap for moving forward. 

"I think we'll find some common ground there," said Houston.

"They'll see some action from this government that I hope is received in the spirit that it's meant, which is to make sure that we build a bridge together and go forward together."

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.