Nova Scotia

Strong relationships, educators can help prevent hateful acts by youth, says expert

Strong relationships and community approaches can prevent hate and harmful actions by young people in Nova Scotia, according to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network’s education facilitator.

Pride flags have been burned, ripped down in recent weeks in Nova Scotia

At a press conference, a woman with grey hair, left, holds up a Pride flag which had been ripped up. To her right, a high school student looks on.
Queer lawyer Susanne Litke, left, and Rayne Frost, a student at Bay View High School, spoke at a Nova Scotia NDP press conference for the 2023 International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. (Andrew Lam/CBC)

A recent string of discriminatory acts by young people involving Pride flags in Nova Scotia, and incidents like it, can be prevented through strong relationships and community approaches, says the Canadian Anti-Hate Network's education facilitator.

Hazel Woodrow says young people can come into contact with hateful ideas in many ways, but they often encounter them online.

She said strong relationships between caring adults and young people, ideally at school and at home, are key to avoiding negative outcomes when a child is exposed to such ideas because their beliefs can fluctuate as they are forming their identities. 

"It makes a tremendous difference to have even one caring adult," Woodrow said. "It can really be the difference."

Woodrow said parents and other caregivers can have proactive conversations with the young people in their lives. For example, if a child enjoys gaming, parents could ask about who they game with, what they talk about with those people and whether they are ever made to feel bad about themselves or angry at others.

A non-binary person with glasses is wearing a hoodie and is looking to the left. They are smiling and there is greenery in the background.
Shae Morse is a non-binary teacher at John Martin Junior High School in Halifax. Morse is also a gender and sexuality training consultant outside of teaching. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

Shae Morse, a non-binary teacher at a Halifax junior high school, agrees that conversations are important. They said schools need to provide "genuine discipline and education."

If an incident happens at their school, Morse says the student who perpetrated it will have a conversation with administrators and sometimes other staff. 

"Those kinds of conversations are absolutely critical in terms of building empathy and understanding and starting to push back against some of these ideas we're seeing that are coming from online spaces," Morse said.

More support advocated

Morse said more support could be made available to students.

Ryan Lutes, president of the Nova Scotia Teachers' Union, said having a full-time guidance counsellor in every school building would be an important first step.

Woodrow said that it's important for schools to specifically name hateful acts as being hateful.

"That reaffirms your classroom's climate and culture standards, she said."

A toolkit developed by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network for schools states that exploring de-escalation training and restorative justice models can also be measures schools can take to prevent hate.

The progress Pride flag, which includes stripes to highlight transgender people and people of colour, is flown on a flag pole with trees behind.
The Pride flag was raised at Province House for the 2023 International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. (Andrew Lam/CBC)

At a news conference at Province House this week, high school student Rayne Frost talked about how they and other students spoke to friends of the students who burned a Pride flag at their Halifax school.

"When hate like this happens, it can often establish an us-versus-them narrative, and that is the last thing we want because that can push away our allies," Frost said. "It can push away those who help us."


Andrew Lam


Andrew Lam (they/she) is a Chinese-Canadian and trans reporter for CBC Nova Scotia. They are interested in 2SLGBTQIA+, political and data-driven stories. Andrew also has a professional background in data analytics and visualization. You can reach her at