Vanessa Fells, ANSDPAD Coalition Director smiles at the camera while working from her laptop at her office.
Vanessa Fells, ANSDPAD Coalition Director. Photo: Matthew Byard.

A group called the African Nova Scotian Black Family is calling on Premier Tim Houston to transform the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs into a full department and to appoint an African Nova Scotian to run it.

“This department would be a separate department from the Communities, Culture, and Heritage. And, as set out in the press release, the minister and deputy minister would have to be a person of African Descent,” Vanessa Fells, director of the African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent Coalition (ANSDPAD), one of the groups within the African Nova Scotian Black Family, said in an email to the Examiner.

“Essentially, the office of African Nova Scotian Affairs would become a department with more decision-making powers. Black people would be accountable to Black People.”

These and other demands from the group come after a series of virtual sessions Black Family Meetings hosted after Houston appointed Pat Dunn, a white MLA, as Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs, and dismissed of Dr. Késa Munroe-Anderson as Deputy Minister of of Communities, Culture and Heritage, and Dr. OmiSoore Dryden from Nova Scotia Health’s board of directors.

collage of two close up photos of two Black ladies, Dr. Késa Munroe-Anderson and Dr. OmiSoore Dryden
Dr. Késa Munroe-Anderson, left, was dismissed as Deputy Minister of of Communities, Culture and Heritage, and Dr. OmiSoore Dryden, right, was on the Nova Scotia Health’s board of directors before it was dissolved following the swearing in of the Houston government in September. Photos: Facebook.

Upon the swearing-in of the new government in September, Munroe-Anderson was replaced by Justin Huston, who is white.

“The Black Family Meetings discussions has asked for Dr. Késa to be reappointed to essentially right and wrong decision make the Premier to dismiss her,” said Fells.

In its media release, the African Nova Scotian Black Family called for an all-Black advisory council to advise the minister and deputy minister and for Dr. Dryden to be appointed to the province’s new Health Leadership Team.

That leadership team was formed after Houston was sworn in and disbanded the 14-member Nova Scotia Health board of directors. Every member of that team is white.

“The issue at hand is that the dismissal of the health board has left a void in the new health leadership team with no one on the team to be a voice for the entire Black Community,” said Fells. “Therefore, decisions are being made about health that will affect our community with no one the team to speak for us.”

A man wearing a dark suit, white shirt and no tie speaks at a podium. In the background are four Nova Scotia flags, coloured blue, yellow and red.
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston speaks to reporters in Halifax on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford

Representatives from the Black Family Meeting met with Houston and Dunn in September to talk about concerns voiced in the series of virtual meetings.

In October, Houston appointed a Black man, Dwayne Provo, as the associate deputy minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs.

“This is the first time that government has appointed a dedicated associate deputy to focus solely on the work of ANSA, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to support and champion this important work. I will work with deputy ministers and associate deputy ministers across government to advance community issues and priorities and find solutions,” Provo wrote in an announcement about his appointment.

In an interview with the Examiner in November, Fells said while the coalition is pleased with Provo’s appointment, ” if you look at the hierarchy, it is still Duane Provo, a white Deputy Minister, a white Minister, and a complete white cabinet.”

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Matthew Byard writes news, profiles, and stories of the Black Nova Scotia community. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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  1. Why not have one very credible person, like Barack Obama, as premier of everyone?
    We don’t really need silos of bureaucracy,- one for indigenous citizens, one for black citizens, and another one for non-black/non-indigenous citizens, all fighting over tax dollars. We have urgent stuff like climate change confronting us all with a bleak future which can only be addressed by a united force.