Nova Scotia

Protesters call for nail gun shooting to be treated as hate crime

More than 50 protestors gathered outside of Nova Scotia's Department of Labour in Halifax Friday, calling on the province to do more about what they call an incident of racially-motivated violence.

50 people protested Friday in Halifax, saying a charge laid in the case doesn't go far enough

Nhlanhla Dlamini (right) and his brother, Buhle Dlamini, say they plan to file a complaint with the human rights commission. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

More than 50 protestors gathered Friday outside Nova Scotia's Labour Department in Halifax, calling on the province to do more about what they call an incident of racially motivated violence against a young, black construction worker.

The 21-year-old victim, Nhlanhla Dlamini, alleges a co-worker purposefully shot him in the back with a nail gun last month at a worksite in Pictou County, resulting in a punctured lung.

RCMP have since charged Shawn Wade Hynes, 43, with criminal negligence causing bodily harm, but the protesters say the charge doesn't go far enough.

"We're demanding for the charges to be upgraded to attempted murder and it to be recognized as a hate crime," said Angee Bowden, a protester and family friend.

Nhlanhla Dlamini wipes away tears at a protest held in Halifax. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

"This is going to be precedent-setting in this province as to how we deal with hate crimes," Bowden said. "The message we're sending individuals who are comfortable in engaging in this behaviour, is that we really don't care about black lives."

Dlamini previously told CBC he was the target of racial slurs and bullying in his first few weeks on the job. He said it escalated in late September when a coworker intentionally shot him with a nail gun.

He said he required emergency surgery when the 3½​-inch nail punctured his lung, and spent four days in hospital.

Nhlanhla Dlamini says he was intentionally shot with a nail gun by a coworker on a work site on Sept. 19. (Steve Berry/CBC)
A lawyer for the construction company, P.Q. Properties Ltd., initially denied Dlamini was seriously injured and has maintained the nail gun shooting was an accident. Last week, the company said it was forced to stopped work at a site because of threats of violence.

Bowden said protestors and the family want the Department of Labour to conduct a full investigation and are calling on the Workers' Compensation Board of Nova Scotia to investigate as well.

In an email to CBC News, a spokesperson for the Labour Department said it is conducting an inspection of the workplace in relation to the requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. 

More than 50 people attended the protest in Halifax on Friday.
"Through our inspection, we will be verifying compliance, and this inspection will determine whether or not an investigation is required," said spokesperson Shannon Kerr, adding that the department can't comment on the specifics of the case as it's before the courts. 

Dlamini says he's still recovering from what happened to him, both physically and emotionally.

"Depression has seemed to come into place," he said following the protest. 

"Everyone wants to know if I'm ready to come back to work. Am I doing carpentry again? And I am hesitant to answer the question because I haven't answered it myself. I haven't told myself if I'm scared or not to come back to work."

Nhlanhla Dlamini speaks at a protest held in Halifax on Oct. 19.

Along with the court case, the family said it plans to file a human rights complaint and is seeking financial compensation for what happened.

"We would have rather had our lives continue the way they were," said Dlamini's brother, Buhle Dlamini.

"But the biggest thing was the fact Nhlanhla could have died."

He said the family will continue to speak up.

"People need to realize these incidents are happening. They don't always result in violence, but they are taking place."

About the Author

Marina von Stackelberg is a CBC journalist based in Winnipeg. She previously worked for CBC in Halifax and Sudbury. Connect with her @CBCMarina or marina.von.stackelberg@cbc.ca