1. Brian Johnston

Brian Johnston as a new recruit to the Dartmouth Police in 1980. Photo: Halifax Archives

Early in the new year, Zane Woodford reported the story of a lawsuit filed against the Halifax Regional Municipality and the federal government by a woman who said she was sexually assaulted by two police officers when she was 13 years old.

The Examiner couldn’t uncover any present-day information on Wade Marriott who was named in the suit. After receiving an e-mail from a reader, the Examiner determined that Brian Johnston, a pastor with the Zion Baptist Church in Truro, is the other officer (now retired) named in the lawsuit.

Johnston has since stepped aside from official duties at the church, and from official committee roles with the African United Baptist Association (AUBA). Zion is a member of AUBA.

The lawsuit was filed on December 14, 2021. As of this past weekend, the defence has yet to submit a motion. The allegations against Johnston and Marriott have not been tested in court and they have not been criminally charged.

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2. Our Stories Our Experiences

On the set of ‘Our Stories Our Experiences with Rajean Willis’. Photos: Matthew Byard

A new four-part web series highlights the stories in the province’s Black community.

Our Stories Our Experiences with Rajean Willis’ was recently released on YouTube in conjunction with African Heritage Month, and is hosted by the Halifax Public Libraries.

“In high-level conversations, there’s conclusions that racialized people — Black people — may have a lower life expectancy as a result of racism,” Willis said in an interview with the Examiner.

“I think it’s a reality that, either consciously or subconsciously, people have internalized racism in a way that they also believe the lies of Black inferiority and white superiority, which can ultimately have an impact on the way they think about themselves; the way they think about people that look like them; and the way they think about people that don’t think like them,” she said.

The Examiner was also present last fall when Willis filmed a segment with Dr. Barb Hamilton-Hinch, an associate professor with Dalhousie University who’s researched racism and diversity.

Hamilton-Hinch talked to Willis about grief and loss in the Black community, and how grief is also felt through the loss of both community land and traditions.

“I appreciate the desire and the need to assimilate and want to have more than those who’ve gone before,” she said. “But I don’t value it when we do it at the expense of forgetting about where we came from.”

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3. Lindell Wigginton

Left photo: Lindell Wigginton’s Instagram story Thursday wishing his mother a happy birthday. Photo: Nicole Wigginton-Downey / Right Photo: Lindell Wigginton makes his NBA regular season debut with the Milwaukee Bucks. Photo: Instagram.

On January 13, Dartmouth’s Lindell Wigginton signed an NBA two-way contract with Milwaukee Bucks. Until then, Wigginton was playing for The Buck’s G-League team, the Wisconsin Herd.

“Welcome to the league,” said NBA Hall-of-Famer Reggie Miller later that night on television commentary as Wigginton scored his first two NBA career points.

Wigginton’s signing and debut came on the same day as his mother’s birthday. Speaking with the Examiner the next day from her home in Dartmouth, Nicole Wigginton-Downey said her son knew about the contract the night before but tried to keep it a surprise.

“He knew [that I knew] when he called because I was crying and he’s going: ‘Mom! Mom! Mom!’ And I’m like … trying to catch my breath,” she said. “It was my birthday. Best gift ever.”

In his debut, Wigginton earned two points, a steal, and a rebound in the final minutes of The Bucks’ win over the Golden State Warriors.

“It was my birthday and he played against my favourite player, Steph Curry,” his mother said. “I wanted him to get the autograph, but he’s like, ‘Nooo!’”

On Sunday night in a game against the Denver Nuggets, Wigginton scored seven points in just six minutes and earned his first career three-pointer.

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4. African Nova Scotian Affairs opens three new regional offices

The province announces 3 new regional offices for the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs. Photo: Tim Houston.

On January 17, the province the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs opened three new additional regional offices in Digby, New Glasgow, and Preston.

These offices will be in addition to the three regional offices currently in Sydney, Truro, and Yarmouth. Six people are expected to be hired to staff the three new regional offices.

In a press release, African Nova Scotian Affairs Minister Pat Dunn said, “We’ve heard loud and clear that rural African Nova Scotian communities have unique needs and concerns, and they need greater access to supports and services. This is a step to make sure we’re serving African Nova Scotian communities from one end of the province to the other.”

Last December, a group of prominent Black Nova Scotians called for Premier Tim Houston to make the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs its own department with all-Black ministers and an all-Black advisory council.

“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,” said Vanessa Fells, director of the African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent Coalition (ANSDPAD).

African Nova Scotian Affairs currently operates as a division of the Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism, and Heritage.

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5. Cecil Boutiler and “No More Excuses”

Photos: Cecil Boutilier

Cecil Boutilier who is a resident at Jamieson Centre, a halfway house in Dartmouth, spoke to the Examiner last month about obstacles he said his parole officer is putting in his way to be able to grow his business and turn his life around.

Cecil Boutilier was placed on statutory release last summer from a seven-and-a-half-year manslaughter conviction that resulted from the theft of a motor vehicle.

“At first [the parole officer] said I couldn’t have my vinyl cutter and my heat press because I’m not allowed, or I’m not authorized to run a business out of a halfway house,” he said. “Then he changed the reason [from] I couldn’t run a business to simply … I had too many things in my room, and I had to get rid of them. And then it was my heat press was a fire hazard, so that became the reason I had to get rid of the heat press.”

Boutilier founded a clothing company and named it ‘NME’ (No More Excuses), inspired by his new outlook on life that he developed following an Impact of Race and Culture Assessment (IRCA) he underwent with social worker Robert Wright during his sentencing.

He spoke to the Examiner about how he was first inspired to learn how to draw by a former cellmate during a previous conviction.

In the days that followed his initial interview with the Examiner, Boutilier and the other residents on his floor at the hallway house had a two-week COVID quarantine reset for the second time in just under two weeks when as more and more residents continued to test positive after the initial positive case.

Boutilier said he feared for his safety because adequate measures weren’t taken to clean the facility and that other inmates became symptomatic and subsequently tested positive. To draw attention to the situation, and to limit his frequency of trips to the bathroom where he felt he was at risk, Boutilier went on a hunger strike and spoke out about it as well to the Examiner.

After three days on the hunger strike, however, Boutilier woke up feeling sick and also tested positive for COVID.

“They been testing us with the PCR tests every week, and they’ve been giving us also the rapid tests, and each time they do a PCR test there’s positive results,” Boutilier said. “And because of that, because of the close proximity, everyone has to remain isolated. They take the positive cases and take them to the COVID pod. And we’re stuck here and we have to isolate where the person just had COVID, so obviously it’s contaminated here, people don’t just get COVID out of thin air.”

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6. The Brick charged in the death of Martin David

Steve Bruce at Saltwire Media reported that furniture warehouse store The Brick has been charged with four offenses under the Occupational Health and Safety Act following the June 2020 death of one of its employees, Martin David, at its Bayers Lake location. The charges were laid this past November.

David, who worked as a delivery driver, was found unconscious one morning in a dark bathroom after having already suffered a fall while loading furniture onto a truck.

“The washroom lights were on a timer system slated to come on later in the morning, which left the employees no means to activate the washroom lights when they needed access to the washroom,” said Richard Walkinshaw who investigated the incident last September.

In September, 15 months after David’s death, Walkinshaw also noted that the lighting system still hadn’t been changed.

Bruce reported:

“The Brick is accused of failing to ensure the bathroom was adequately illuminated, failing to notify the Labour Department of a workplace accident within 24 hours, and failing to ensure its policies for accident injury investigation and lighting were adequate and implemented.”

David’s family said they were not notified by The Brick about David’s accident despite a company statement claiming that they were.

Martin David was 47 when he passed and left behind 4 children aged two to 23.

The case is scheduled to return to court this February where The Brick is expected to enter pleas.

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7. African student shares story of alleged assault in Wolfville

A permanent resident from Eritrea spoke to the Examiner this month about her experience with the RCMP in Wolfville and Wolfville Mayor Wendy Donovan following an incident where she says she was physically assaulted and verbally attacked with racial remarks.

Sara Micheal moved to Canada to study at Acadia University and says she and other students of colour have been witness and subject to a number of racist incidents both at Acadia and in the town of Wolfville.

She said one of the most recent incidents happened when she asked a roommate to keep it down at two in the morning. She said the roommate, a woman, became verbally aggressive with her before physically attacking her, leaving Micheal with scratch marks on her neck.

Micheal says that when she defended herself, the roommate started to spew racial remarks at her before another roommate then intervened but tried to paint Micheal as the aggressor.

The next day, Micheal said she went to the police station to give her side of the story. She said, however, that the uniformed police officer who let her in and to who she tried to give a statement was dismissive from the beginning and accused her of “playing the victim.”

She said that when she turned to her friend and remarked “This town is very racist,” the officer became verbally aggressive with her and repeatedly instructed her to “Take it back!”

“I felt mostly mad, but also I was starting to feel like he was trying to instigate a reaction out of me so that he’d have an excuse to get physical or arrest me,” she said.

In a group text message thread between Micheal, Wolfville Mayor Wendy Donovan, and the town’s CAO, Erin Beaudin, Donovan attempted to shed doubt on Micheal’s claims about the RCMP officer, saying, ““Let’s say the person you were speaking to was not a real officer, just say, and you are smearing an innocent organization.”

Donovan did not respond to the Examiner’s request for comment.

The RCMP said they’re unable to comment on ongoing investigations.

Micheal, however, said that after numerous attempts, she was finally able to provide an official statement about the incident with the roommate.

She says she was told the last name of the officer who she says berated her is Munroe. She said she feels he didn’t pass any of her information along to the officer investigating the incident with the roommate.

She says she has attempted to file a complaint against the officer but doesn’t believe there is an open complaint about him at this time.

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8. African Heritage Month

On January 26, African Heritage Month was officially launched with a virtual proclamation and poster unveiling ceremony.

The event was hosted by Dwayne Provo, the province’s Associate Deputy Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs. Premier Tim Houston, and Pat Dunn, Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs and the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives also shared speeches.

The Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, which streamed the event, hosted an online launch ceremony from the Black Cultural Centre Museum the following night.

African Heritage Month in Nova Scotia dates back to the first-ever Black History Week in 1984 at the North Branch Public Library on Gottingen Street. That event was a “partnership with the Black United Front of Nova Scotia and writer/actor David Woods,” as stated on the official African Heritage Month website.

As depicted on the official poster, this year’s theme is ‘Through Our Eyes: The Voices of African Nova Scotians.’

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Matthew Byard, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

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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