In honour of African Heritage Month, we would like to take this opportunity to express Nova Scotia Legal Aid’s (NSLA) continued commitment to enhancing access to justice for economically vulnerable and historically disadvantaged communities throughout the Province.
The UN Report of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on its mission to Canada was released on August 16, 2017. According to their findings,
- East Preston and North Preston, communities on the outskirts of Halifax, Nova Scotia (on land that the British Crown granted to Black Loyalists following the American Revolution), has the highest percentage of Blacks in Canada.
- African Canadians are overrepresented in the child welfare and criminal justice system, the cause of which is said to be rooted in racial bias.
- There is a lack of implementation of the Land Clarification Titles Act (LCTA), which would assist people of African descent in obtaining titles to the lands on which they live.
As an organization, we acknowledge these findings and are dedicated to providing culturally responsive service to our clients which has been identified as a priority in the NSLA Strategic Plan – 2017-2020. We will continue to educate our staff and encourage our lawyers to bring cultural impact to the forefront on matters before the Court. For instance, there has been an increase in the use of cultural assessments by our lawyers to ensure that vital information about African Nova Scotian history and culture is before the Court.
In September 2017, the Provincial Government announced a new initiative to support the clarification of land ownership with a focus on the five African Nova Scotian communities of East Preston, North Preston, Cherry Brook, Lincolnville and Sunnyville. These communities, among others across the Province, have suffered from historical discrimination that has prevented community members from receiving legal title to the land they own. NSLA, with the support of the Province of Nova Scotia, will provide legal services to African Nova Scotians seeking to obtain title to their land.
The NSLA Equity & Racial Diversity Committee will continue to work with the executive of Nova Scotia Legal Aid to ensure that as an organization, we better reflect the diverse communities which we serve.
Brandon Rolle & Alisha Brown-Fagan
Co-Chairs of NSLA Equity & Racial Diversity Committee