It Was All Good Just a Week Ago
(**Jay-Z-voice**)

Last Friday, as the weekly news cycle was winding down and political analysts were predicting Iain Rankin would officially call the provincial election over the weekend, news broke of accusations of racial profiling against the Cole Harbour RCMP.

Accusations of racism against police in HRM aren’t new. What was particularly newsworthy about these allegations, however, was who was doing the accusing and the high-profile positions they hold.

Halifax Regional Police Superintendent Dean Simmonds, who is Black, and his wife Angela Simmonds, who is also Black, said they were racially profiled nearly two weeks earlier when RCMP stopped them and ordered them out of their vehicle at gunpoint with a C8 carbine rifle.

The RCMP said they were investigating a shooting that had been reported in North Preston, where the couple lives. In a statement, the RCMP acknowledged that “The high-risk traffic stop involved a vehicle that matched the suspect vehicle description, with an out-of-province license plate, that was coming from the direction of the nearby community.”

In a joint statement released by the couple last Friday, Angela Simmonds said “The interaction with RCMP police officers provides yet another example of the way Black people continue to be subjected to inhumane treatment and are regarded as dangerous, dishonest, guilty, criminals.”

An investigation is now underway.

Election call 

Last Saturday, as predicted, premier Iain Rankin officially called Nova Scotia’s 41st provincial election. Of the over 150 candidates running, it appears as though a record number of at least 11 of them are Black.

Just days after the incident where Dean and Angela Simmonds said they were racially profiled, Preston MLA Keith Colwell now in his fourth consecutive term since 2003 — announced he would not be running in the next election. The Liberals asked Angela Simmonds to run for his seat and announced her as their official candidate two days after Colwell’s announcement, and two days prior to the revelation of the racial profiling accusations.

The Examiner reported on Tuesday that with Colwell — the sole white Preston candidate in the last election — being replaced on the Liberal ticket by Simmonds, this will mark the first time in Atlantic Canadian history that a riding in a provincial election is being contested by all Black candidates. In addition to Simmonds, former African Nova Scotian Halifax school board representative, Archy Beals, is running for the Progressive Conservatives, and community organizer and basketball coach, Colter Simmonds, is running for the NDP.

The candidates in the Preston riding (left to right): Angela Simmonds (Liberal), Archy Beals (PC), and Colter Simmonds (NDP).

Getting out the Black vote

On Monday, Miranda Cain who is an outreach officer for Elections Nova Scotia spoke to Amber Fryday from Global News about her and others’ work to get traditionally marginalized groups out to the polls this upcoming election.

“A lot of people don’t even care to even know about voting or who or what they will get from voting from such and such parties,” she said.

“Just to be there to educate them about the importance of voting and let them know that every vote counts.”

“In the Black communities, elections and voting is not something that we ever really saw on our side. So, right now, we’re making baby steps and we’re trying to implement that,” said Cain.

Cain is the sole liaison for the province’s Black communities where she reaches out to people to help them overcome barriers when it comes to voting with respect to things like literacy and mobility issues.

Miranda Cain, Elections Nova Scotia liaison officer, talks to Global News about engaging Black people in the election process. (Global Halifax)

Official heritage status

On Monday Examiner writer, Suzanne Rent, caught up with Debra Lucas and Irma Oliver Riley of Lucasville after they had found out last week that the Black cemetery at the Sackville United Baptist Church had been approved for provincial heritage status.

On Tuesday, Rent reported that:

“The status means that no one can go in and disturb the property. Lucas wants to look for a grant so they can get the property cleaned up, fenced off, and have a monument created and put in place to remember those who are buried there.

Some of the stones are unrecognizable and have to be restored. Lucas says some stones may have fallen down the back of the property because of erosion.”

Lucas, the current chair of the Lucasville Community Association said that

“It’s heritage for the grandchildren, even for my mother, who is still alive. Her parents are buried in here. Her grandparents are buried in here. And uncles and aunts are in here.”

Click here to read the full article.

Irma Olivier Riley, left, and Debra Lucas of Lucasville worked to get provincial heritage status for the Lucasville-Sackville Black Baptist Memorial Cemetery on Old Sackville Road. Photo: Suzanne Rent

Beechville Cemetery concerns

Meanwhile, in the Black community of Beechville, later the same day as Rent’s report, a video surfaced on Twitter from the handle @BlackCoffee902 that appeared to show heavy machinery digging and doing construction seemingly very close to the Beechville Baptist Cemetery.

Though concerns have been raised by Black Beechville residents and community members, the Beechville Baptist Church has had provincial heritage status since 2018.

Nevertheless, concerned about potential unmarked graves in the area possibly being disturbed, the caption in the post read:

“Beechville Cemetery shows digging just feet behind marked graves.. what about unmarked graves?
HOW DO WE PROTECT & ENSURE THAT OUR ANCESTORS REST IN PEACE??
DO YOU THINK IT IS OK FOR THIS TO HAPPEN NEAR GRAVEYARDS W UMMARKED GRAVES???”

Click here to view the video and original post.

Senior empowerment sessions

A virtual information session for seniors launched this week, hosted by all Black Nova Scotia professionals.

The weekly sessions are a collaboration between Injury Free Nova Scotia, West Hants Senior Safety, and Valley Anti-Racism Association.

“So we had to come up with a project that covered those three topics: preventing injury, seniors, and anti-racism,” said Valley Anti-Racism Association co-founder, Shartelle Lyon.

Each Monday, an informational video will be released through the project’s Facebook page along with an event reminder and Zoom link to an interactive Q&A about the video to take place at noon that coming Friday.

The first of six sessions that covers information technology and computer literacy premiered Monday, with the virtual Q&A scheduled for Friday at noon. (Zoom link: us02web.zoom.us)

Black in the Maritimes

The latest podcast episode of Black In The Maritimes was released this past Wednesday.

In this week’s episode titled ‘Black Vaccine hesitancy and crisis in Haiti’, hosts Fidel Franco, Allan Mccall, Clinton Davis, and Hillary Leblanc discuss reports of vaccine hesitancy among Black Canadians versus a lack of access to it among lower-income Canadians and people of colour, the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse, as well as a topic that I would describe as double consciousness among Black Canadians.

Links to this week’s episode, past episodes, as well as blog posts, and a Paypal donation button are available through the group’s official website BlackintheMaritimes.com.

Other Black podcasts based in the Maritimes include My Name Is Searl hosted by Chris Searl, In Case You Missed It hosted by Jermaine Colley, and  True Fatherhood Stories hosted by Jay Bruce.

What a warm, welcoming week!

Lastly, on Monday morning while working on my first story for The Examiner, Tim Bousquet, the Examiner’s editor and publisher, announced I had been hired “to cover African Nova Scotian communities in HRM and across the province.” Friends of mine caught wind of the official announcement before I did and shared it on social media where I caught wind of it. I shared it. More people continued to re-share it, and as of Friday, I was still receiving congratulations and words of encouragement. It’s honestly not surprising to me, in hindsight, given all the many wonderful people I’m very fortunate to know. Though, I must say, the outpouring of support was absolutely unexpected and overwhelming. Thank you.

Now comes the hard part. I must produce. I feel very fortunate to be able to hold a position where I am able to help keep the Black community connected and informed about one another. As time goes on and the dynamics of the community continue to change, I feel this is very necessary work. I look forward to it. Those who know me know it is something I am very passionate about.

I’m thankful to Tim for this opportunity and his thoughtful words in this past Monday’s Morning File; his trusted advisors and their support for me behind the scenes; Yvette d’Entremont and all the members of The Examiner team for all their help this past week; my instructors, graduating classmates, former classmates, alumni, and future graduates of the Radio Television Journalism program at NSCC; the incredibly talented team at Global News Halifax where I recently completed an internship; Black people; and everyone I have encountered on my journey in life that has brought me to this point.

Again, thank you!

This is an interview I conducted in 2020 with, then premier, Stephen McNeil, as part of an ongoing project series by NSCC students in the RTJ program titled “untitled – The Legacy of Land in North Preston.” To view more of the project, visit: northprestonland.ca.


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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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    1. From the link in the article: “Armco Capital wants to build close to 1,300 homes as well as offices and stores between the Bayers Lake Business Park and Lovett Lake, located just north of St. Margarets Bay Road.” That’s going ahead now.