1. Mar Mar

Young Black boy in Black t-shirt and red shorts poses in the kitchen
Lee-Marion “Mar Mar” Cain, the eight-year-old killed in a drive-by shooting on Windmill Road in Dartmouth four days before Christmas. Photo: Odette Smith / Facebook.

A funeral was held on New Year’s Eve Day for Lee-Marion “Mar-Mar” Cain, the eight-year-old killed in a drive-by shooting in Dartmouth just four days before Christmas.

Cain was a passenger in a vehicle with a 26-year-old man who suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the shooting. In a statement, Halifax Regional Police described the suspects as two Black men driving a burgundy SUV, possibly a Chevrolet, that has tinted windows.

Cain was the city’s third Black murder victim since November, following the deaths of Alex Thomas and Vincent Beals.

Two days after Cain’s murder, Cole Harbour RCMP discovered a 28-year-old man on Lake Loon Road in Cherry Brook who had also been murdered. His name has not yet been officially released. News of that murder broke on the morning of Christmas Eve.

Arrests have been made in the murders of Thomas and Beals. Police aren’t saying whether they believe any of the incidents to be connected.

In the days that preceded Mar Mar’s funeral, there was both an online vigil for Mar Mar, and a town hall meeting was held in North Preston between community members and RCMP to discuss the tragedy.

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2. Kayla Borden’s appeal hearing adjourns early

Kayla Borden (left photo) has filed an appeal to her dismissed complaint against the Halifax Regional Police. Constables Scott Martin and Jason Meisner (right photo) are the two arresting officers named in the complaint.
Kayla Borden, left, filed an appeal to her dismissed complaint against the Halifax Regional Police. Constables Scott Martin and Jason Meisner, right, are the two arresting officers named in the complaint. Photos: Matthew Byard

An appeal hearing into Kayla Borden’s complaint of racial profiling and systemic racism within the Halifax Regional Police was abruptly adjourned in December just as Halifax Police Chief Dan Kinsella was set to testify.

In July of 2020, Borden was on her way home from Bedford when her car was stopped on Windmill Road in Burnside and she was arrested and put in handcuffs.

She was released at the scene and told the police were looking for a white man in a different model and colour car. She filed a complaint that same day that was later dismissed.

The appeal hearing into her complaint officially began in December.

In addition to Borden, the Police Review Board heard testimonies from constables Stuart McCulley, Andrew Nicholson, Jeffery Pulsifer, and Andrew Joudrey, who were all involved in Borden’s arrest.

Constables Scott Martin and Jason Meisner are the arresting officers named in the complaint. Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella was expected to be the first to testify on the fourth day of the hearing, but that morning, the hearing was adjourned for reasons that were not officially disclosed.

The hearing into Borden’s wrongful arrest is scheduled to resume this month.

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3. Black health advocate appointed to the Order of Canada

Head shot of Black lady in pink blazer and black glasses
Sharon Davis-Murdoch, a founding member and the co-president of the Health Association of African Canadians (HAAC) is one of seven Black Canadians recently appointed to the Order of Canada. Photo: Facebook / Scan World

Sharon Davis-Murdoch was one of nine Nova Scotians nominated last week to the Order of Canada. She is one of the co-founders and current co-president of the Health Association of African Canadians (HAAC).

Originally from Bermuda, Davis-Murdoch moved to Canada 41 years ago to attend university and has lived here ever since.

HAAC started originally as the Black Women’s Health Network in April of 2000, and was founded by Davis-Murdoch, Susan (Sue) Edmonds, Josephine Etowa, and Yvonne Atwell. One of its goals was to shine a light on inequalities surrounding the healthcare of Black women in the province.

In 2002, it “metamorphized” into the Health Association of African Canadians (HAAC) “to liberate the association from its narrow focus on women’s health,” as stated on its website.

The Governor General’s media release said Davis-Murdoch was appointed to the Order of Canada “for her dedication to improving the health equity and inclusion of racialized communities in Nova Scotia.”

“I am overwhelmed,” Davis-Murdoch said to CBC. “I am so humbled by this, but I’m also very grateful. It’s a beautiful thing to feel recognized and supported in the work that one does.”

In addition to Davis-Murdoch, half a dozen of the other 135 new appointees to the Order of Canada are also Black Canadians, including Olympians Justice Hugh L. Fraser, and Bruny Surin; anti-racism educators and authors Carol M. Tator and Frances Henry; Canadian jazz legend Jackie Richardson; and artist Robert Small, creator of the Black history Legacy posters.

Black man in navy blue blazer in front of LEGACY Black history portraits in the background.
Artist, author, creator of the Legacy posters, and founder of African-Canadian Entrepreneurs (ACES), Robert Small is one of seven Black Canadians recently appointed to the order of Canada. Photo: Robert Small / Facebook

In researching this item, I contacted Robert Small, curious if Davis-Murdoch had ever been featured on one of the Legacy posters.

“No, but funny enough, she will be on it this year!” he said. “I asked her last year prior to all this.”

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4. Desmond inquiry set to end this month

Lionel Desmond dressed in military camouflague and holding a weapon.
Lionel Desmond in a 2007 tour in Afghanistan that “was said to be the bloodiest of the Canadian Military’s combat mission,” according to Raymond Sheppard.

The Canadian Press reported last week that the Desmond inquiry is expected to end later this month.

On January 3, 2017, Desmond, an Afghan war veteran who suffered from severe PTSD, shot and killed his wife Shanna, their daughter Aaliyah, and his mother Brenda in Upper Big Tracadie, before killing himself.

The report said that chief medical examiner, Matt Bowes, told then-justice minister Mark Furey the inquiry was a bad idea.

“Many of the issues surrounding these fatalities are within the sole jurisdiction of the federal government or are interconnected with areas of provincial jurisdiction,” Bowes told Furey in a letter.

“A (provincial) inquiry cannot make recommendations about matters under federal jurisdiction.”

The inquiry experienced delays as a result of COVID. During that time, then-premier Stephen McNeil echoed Bowes sentiments about the inquiry, saying, ““it does not have the federal government there as an equal partner.”

This past summer, Desmond’s case manager with Veterans Affairs told the inquiry that budget cuts from the Harper government made it harder for Desmond to get the adequate help he needed at times when he would call into the office in distress.

This past fall, Desmond’s cousin, Raymond Sheppard testified at the inquiry and spoke to the Examiner about interviews and research he’d done about Desmond’s experience with racism in the military. He feels the racism Desmond experienced likely exasperated his PTSD in a deadly war environment.

Later in the fall, members of the Health Association of African Canadians (HAAC) —  Sharon Davis-Murdoch, Lana McMclean, Cynthia Jordan, and Robert Wright — testified about how a lack of health care culturally specific to Black people may have also contributed to the tragedy.

“That’s not to suggest that the clinicians that you have spoken to are themselves racist, but that the systems in which they have worked, the schools in which they have studied, even the professional development that they have been exposed to … has left them devoid of the kinds of things that we’re sharing with you today — and that is fundamentally what I think must be changed,” social worker Robert Wright said at the inquiry in November of last year.

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5. Judge Corrine Sparks retires

Black female Judge in Black robe trimmed with dark green smiles for the camera in front of court bench.
Judge Corrine Sparks in 2018, being recognized for her 30th year on the bench. Photo: Nova Scotia Courts / Twitter

After working her final day as a judge on New Year’s Eve, Judge Corrine Sparks, the first Black judge in Nova Scotia, retired after 34 years on the bench, CBC and Saltwire reported.

After graduating from law school at Dalhousie in 1979, Sparks was appointed to the bench in Halifax family court eight years later in 1987. This also made her the first Black female judge in all of Canada.

In a precedent-setting case following the 1993 arrest of 15-year-old Rodney Smalls in Uniacke Square in Halifax, Sparks acquitted Smalls of assaulting a police officer while the officer was trying to make an arrest.

“I’m not saying that the constable misled the court, although police officers have been known to do that in the past. And I’m not saying that the officer overreacted, but certainly police officers do overreact, particularly when they’re dealing with non-white groups,” Sparks said in her decision.

The Crown appealed the decision and in 1997 Jones successfully upheld the verdict in the federal Supreme Court, making Sparks’ decision to consider racial bias among police a legal precedent where it continues to be studied in universities and law schools across Canada to this day.

Sparks is from the Black community of Lake Loon-Cherrybrook. Though she’s retired as a judge, she will now work adjudicating disputes over land ownership in the province’s Black communities as part of the provincial Land Title Initiative.

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6. Assault charge dropped against New Glasgow mayor Nancy Dicks

Headshot of Nancy Dicks, a white lady with shoulder length blond hair
An assault charge was dropped against New Glasgow Mayor Nancy Dicks by prosecutor Bill Gorman. The charge stemmed from an alleged confrontation with African Nova Scotian poet and author Angela Bowden at a Black Lives Matter event in New Glasgow. Photo: Facebook.

Criminal charges have been dropped against New Glasgow mayor Nancy Dicks, for an alleged assault on poet and author Angela Bowden at a New Glasgow Black Lives Matter event in September 2020.

Bowden detailed her version of events in an online video post this past May and said that Dicks approached her while Bowden was sitting with elderly relatives, grabbed her leg, and became verbally aggressive.

The Cape Breton Regional Police investigated the incident and charged Dicks with assault in August of 2021. In December, New Glasgow prosecutor Bill Gorman informed Bowden he was dropping the charges saying he didn’t feel there was enough evidence to convict.

“If it came down then — and quite often it comes down to your word and the person you accused — then that’s for the judge to decide,” Bowden told The Examiner in an interview last month. “Because clearly the police believed me, and believed there was enough evidence because they set the charge.”

Black author and poet, Angela Bowden, was a contributor to Nova Scotia Advocate
Angela Bowden. Photo: Facebook.

“So what I’m disheartened at is that we didn’t even have an opportunity to allow the wheels of justice to move because they stopped it midway,” she said.

“With him just dismissing it, it proves once again that there is no justice for Black people in this province. It also shows the value we place on Black women and their safety, on their voices, and on their trauma.”

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7. George Dixon recognized by the Canadian government

 A black and white photo of George Dixon in a boxing pose with his fists up.
George Dixon was the first ever Black athlete to win a world championship in any sport. He was also the first Canadian-born boxing champion. Photo: Wikipedia

The first Black Canadian athlete to win a world title in boxing is being recognized as a person of national historic significance by the federal government.

George Dixon was born in Africville on July 29, 1870. During his life, Dixon boxed mainly out of Boston as both bantamweight and featherweight. He was the first boxer to win world titles in multiple weight classes, the first to have multiple reigns with a world title, and he is also credited with having invented shadowboxing.

A news release issued by Steven Guilbeault, the minister responsible for Parks Canada, said, “As a Black athlete, he confronted racial prejudice throughout his life and career. Dixon used his platform and popularity as world champion to create opportunities for Black boxers and Black boxing fans and regularly contributed his in-ring earnings to causes combating discrimination and supporting Black communities.”

Dixon passed away at age 37 in New York on January 6, 1908. Today, a community centre in Uniacke Square in Halifax, the George Dixon Community Centre, bears his name.

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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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