Angela Simmonds, the Liberal MLA for Preston, will be stepping down as a member of the provincial legislature. Her last day will be on April 1.
Simmonds made the announcement Wednesday afternoon in an open letter to her constituents.
“There are many different reasons people get into politics. For me, it has always been about the people. I wanted to help others believe in change and feel inspired to find the courage to make those changes a lasting part of our community. I wanted people to look at me and see opportunity within themselves,” Simmonds wrote in the letter.
“For me, this decision is necessary to stretch out the legacy of changemakers, lifting up new voices while also preserving my own. This experience has taught me a great deal, and I’m ready to take that knowledge into our community, create opportunities and make change — now.”
Simmonds was elected to the legislature in the August 2021 election. In her riding, she beat out Conservative party candidate Archy Beals and NDP candidate Colter Simmonds in what is believed to be the first race in Atlantic Canada where a provincial riding was contested by all Black candidates.
After being elected, Simmonds was appointed as the Liberal critic for justice, seniors and long-term care, and African Nova Scotian Affairs.
She also serves as the first Deputy Speaker of African descent in the Nova Scotia legislature. She will also be stepping down from that role April 1.
Simmonds is also the first African Nova Scotian to run for the leadership of the provincial Liberal party.* In July 2022, Simmonds was unsuccessful in her candidacy to lead the provincial Liberals against current Liberal leader, Zach Churchill.
Prior to being elected, Simmonds graduated from law school at Dalhousie University. She also served as the executive director of the Land Titles Initiative for the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism.
“April 1st will certainly not be the last day you hear my voice. I will continue to listen, advocate, and make certain my abilities and experience are used to continue working towards anti-racism, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Doing this now will look a little different. It won’t be adversarial, it will be how I want to lead and advocate — with empathy, and integrity,” Simmonds wrote.
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‘She stuck true to her principles’
Liberal leader Zach Churchill shared a message about Simmonds on his social media accounts:
Since being elected, Angela has been a valued member of our caucus. Throughout her time as an MLA and leadership candidate, she stuck true to her principles and values while bringing new members to the Nova Scotia Liberal Party. I have immense respect for her as a colleague and friend, and I look forward to continuing to work with her over the next few months. I know she will do great things in her future to better her community and all of Nova Scotia.
In July 2021, just prior to being approached to run for the Liberals, Simmonds and her husband, Halifax Regional Police Supt. Dean Simmonds, who is Black, had their vehicle pulled over by members of the Cole Harbour RCMP in relation to a call about gunshots in nearby North Preston where the couple lives.
In a claim that was later denied by the RCMP, the couple said they had carbine rifles pointed at them and accused the officers of racial discrimination.
The couple filed a complaint and released a joint statement where they said the interaction was “yet another example of the way Black people continue to be subjected to inhumane treatment and are regarded as dangerous, dishonest, guilty, criminals.”
It was later revealed that Jeremie Landry, who at the time was the acting chief officer of Halifax-district RCMP, sent letters to select members of Halifax regional council whose districts are served by the RCMP, and denied the Simmonds’ claims surrounding the details of the traffic stop.
“There’s so much wrong with that,” Coun. Waye Mason told the Examiner in September 2021 after it was revealed he wrote to the Board of Police Commissioners to complain about the letter.
“There’s an active investigation that’s so sensitive that the RCMP and the clerks have decided that it needs to be entirely redacted, but the acting commander chose to communicate to political elected officials about an active investigation, and to only do so to the people [who] are served by RCMP in Halifax. None of that is right.”
In February 2022, shortly after announcing her bid for the Liberal leadership, Simmonds told the Examiner she was “disappointed” when she heard about Landry’s letter where he essentially said she and her husband had lied.
“I don’t know him and I’ve never met him. And if I did in passing, I didn’t know it was him.”
In October 2021, Simmonds had a meeting with then Liberal leader Iain Rankin and Premier Tim Houston where Simmonds said Houston informed her of “racist, inappropriate, derogatory comments” made about her on social media by a party staffer who had attended meetings with Simmonds.
Houston fired the staffer and MLAs expressed support for Simmonds in the legislature.
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“I may have been the first African Nova Scotian Deputy Speaker, the first African Nova Scotian woman to be elected to the Liberal party as the MLA for Preston, and the first African Nova Scotian woman to run for the Leadership of the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia but I will not be the last. I hope to support whoever may follow my path, and I welcome questions from those interested,” Simmonds said in her letter Wednesday.
“In the meantime, you can reach me in all our usual ways leading up to my final date. I will continue to be here for you.”
“Thank you for your understanding and continued support.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated Angela Simmonds was the first African Nova Scotian to run for the leadership of a major provincial political party.
Yvonne Atwell was the first African Nova Scotia to run for the leadership of a major provincial party in 1996 when she ran for the NDP against Robert Chisholm.