People rallied outside the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission Friday calling for changes to policies they say disadvantage Black complainants and other people of colour.
“When we have to endure racism on a daily basis, it leads to anxiety, panic attacks, and eventually depression,” said organizer Raymond Sheppard, who said he has been campaigning for human rights and racial equity for more than four decades.
“This is documented by European scholars, not just us. But we feel it.”
The rally organizers listed some major areas where they say the commission needs change:
Amend the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act to allow a minimum of three years to file complaint
Increased penalties for human rights violations, including jail time
Cultural competency training for all employees and commissioners
Community information sessions to be held across the province
More diversity in hiring of intake workers, with a particular emphasis on hiring more Black intake workers
Consistent follow up with complainants after a complaint is filed
Shorter assessment times
The rally’s keynote speaker Angela Bowden said she first filed her own case of workplace discrimination in 2017 but it is still on-going.
Angela Bowden was the keynote speaker at the rally. (Shaina Luck/CBC)
She noted that undergoing discrimination can traumatize a person and make them hesitant to file a complaint. Currently the NSHRC does not accept complaints about incidents that happened more than one year in the past, which Bowden said needs to change.
“They have a one year window that protects the perpetrators, because we know what trauma does to an individual. And we know how trauma can flatline somebody,” she said. “It certainly flatlines me, and I am a strong individual and it flatlines me.”
Bowden and other speakers at the rally also said when they tried to file complaints with the commission the intake workers did not display cultural sensitivity. Bowden read a letter from a young Black woman who said an intake worker of a white European background compared the colour of their skins, saying members of her own family…
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