Our municipal government has a strong role to play in ensuring that issues of diversity and equity are prioritized and that systemic racism is challenged by removing barriers faced by marginalized communities.
Equitable Representation on Regional Council
It speaks poorly of our city’s commitment to diversity that Graham Downey remains the only African Nova Scotian to have ever sat on Council.
I believe that Council should follow the lead of the Halifax Regional School Board and establish permanent seats for representatives of the African Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaq communities.
Halifax was founded on the genocide of the Mi’kmaq and continues to be defined by systemic racism. Take for instance how the residents of the predominantly African Nova Scotian community of East Preston have to drive 9 kilometers to Lake Echo in order to access the nearest polling station. Time and time again, Council ignores the systemic barriers faced by marginalized communities and takes decisions that have a disproportionally negative impact upon them.
Setting aside Council seats for representatives of the African Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaq communities would help ensure that their voices are heard.
This year, Council defeated a motion that simply proposed to launch a consultation process to open up discussion about renaming public spaces and monuments dedicated to Edward Cornwallis. Sadly, the majority of members of Council were opposed to even having public discussion on this issue.
I believe that it is inappropriate to uncritically honour figures such as Cornwallis, who issued the infamous bounty on the scalps of Mi’kmaq adults and children.
Council’s inability to pass a motion questioning the terrible legacy of Cornwallis demonstrates the failure of Council to both grapple with the legacies of racism and colonialism and to fully reflect the full diversity of our City. Any decision about re-naming should be made by a body that is representative of those who have been harmed by this history.
I will fight for a city that actively challenges racism, sexism, ableism, and other forms of oppression. That’s why I think it’s time for Council to appoint an Equity Auditor, whose role would be to monitor, investigate, and report directly to Council on systemic oppression in the administration and delivery of municipal services.
Policing practices, municipal employment, housing policy, monuments and place names, and all other sectors of public life regulated by the city must come under increased scrutiny.
Our current municipal equity policies are inadequate. We need an independent body dedicated to fighting oppression that can report to the public honestly and without fear of political repercussions. The same principle of independence applies to financial auditors; equity is no less important than fiscal transparency.
Gentrification & Rent Control
We need a city where safe and affordable housing is ensured by rent control measures. Many communities across this city face increasing levels of gentrification. Families who have lived in areas for generations are being forced out by speculators and unscrupulous developers. Council must pass an inclusionary zoning ordinance, requiring developers to set aside units for affordable housing in all new developments.
Fair Wage for Workers.
African Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaq workers face some of the largest earning gaps in Canada. Individuals from racialized communities are more likely to work in low-waged and precarious jobs. We need hiring practices at the city that fully ensure that the diversity of our city is reflected in the composition of our municipal staff, and we need to ensure fair wages for municipal employees as well as the employees of municipal contractors and sub-contractors.
Fair wages benefit us all and help improve our community and the economy as a whole. If a city like New Westminster in BC can implement a municipal Living Wage ordinance ensuring that all contracts signed by the city include clauses ensuring the provision of a Living Wage to the employees of contractors and sub-contractors, as well as to municipal staff, so can Halifax.
Halifax needs to adopt a Living Wage ordinance for all city employees and workers who are working for private contractors on municipal contracts, such as workers who do parking enforcement, municipal snow removal on our roadways and other work that our city contracts.