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An injury to one is an injury to all

Black History & African Heritage Supplement 2006 Volume 11, No. 1 (No. 48), Spring, 2006

WHAT IS CLEAR in this dangerous but murky affair is:

1. Two Black Nova Scotia historical centres were attacked by arsonists;

2. Whatever the actual and immediate motives of the individual culprit(s) - and whoever they were - these acts of arson objectively amount to an attack on the Black community, in particular, and Nova Scotians, in general;

3. This is an attack on the historical patrimony of Nova Scotia.

The central question is why the government has not risen to denounce these attacks on Nova Scotia's historical and cultural patrimony?

On 7 April 2006 Premier Rodney MacDonald delivered a cheque for $200,000 to the Black Cultural Centre to repair its roof. Neither Mr MacDonald, the CBC, nor the Chronicle Herald - in a 458-word report concentrating on election spin and the Tory candidacy in Preston in the forthcoming election - even mention the reason why the roof needed repairing. (2)

Mr MacDonald did not use this opportunity to declare that the people and their centres will be defended, and that this is the political stand of his government. Nor did he say it will not rest until it gets to the bottom of what actually took place.

Despite the fact that Nova Scotia has a special department of Afro Nova Scotian Affairs, it has left everything in the hands of the federal police force, the RCMP, to act as it sees fit. Given the well-documented involvement of the RCMP with the KKK and the Heritage Front, this is irresponsible to say the least. (3)

All the arbitrary criteria of what is news and what is not, what is criminal and what is racist, is being framed by a federal police force. This is characteristic of a police state. The arson and the police response has created concern amongst people, but there is a curtain of silence. Everything is made to appear outwardly normal. The absence of public political discussion, of facts, and of information control by the police also contribute to anxiety and distrust.

It is not that the government is passive. The Minister of Afro Nova Scotia Affairs Barnet telephoned a board member of the Black Loyalist Heritage Society. He said, 'we are sorry for your loss.' Thus, Black History is marginalized from the history of the people of Canada. It is 'your loss' - but it is not 'our loss.' Mr Barnet's criteria is colonial, racist and wrong. The people of Canada who include the First Nations, the Nation of Quebec and national minorities are one people. The history of Canada is the history of one people. Black History forms an integral part of our patrimony and thought material.

Otherwise, Minister Barnet too has made no public comment. Instead of guaranteeing the complete reconstruction of the Black Loyalist Centre, his office advanced a cheque of $14,000. Some residents told Shunpiking that they find the correlation very suspicious. They asked if this was 'hush money' with instructions to 'whitewash' and acquiesce in the arson attack. Some declared it was a direct humiliation of those of African origin, of the Black community.

Mayann Francis, executive director of the Nove Scotia Human Rights Commission, the top government official to make any public comment, makes the issue even murkier.

Portraying the government as a neutral arbiter and the issue as one of 'two extremes', she told the Globe and Mail, "When you don't have dialogue, you don't have solutions." Arson attacks took place due to a lack of 'dialogue' between two communities about 'race'. Her criteria is meaningless, colonial and racist.

These are the concepts of the government of Canada, which divides Canadians according to arbitrary criteria into various distinct 'communities,' such as 'visible' and 'non visible with novel and distinctive features.' The descendants of the Black Loyalists or of the Trewlany Maroons - who have distinct historical roots in their countries of origin and within Nova Scotia - are arbitrarily classified together with the immigrants from Jamaica and Trinidad, India and Pakistan and so forth - who have distinct historical roots in their countries of origin and within Nova Scotia as one. These racist terms have entered public life and consciousness, and come to mean a human being with or without certain rights. This neo-colonial outlook establishes a hierarchy of 'communities' and languages, some being superior and some inferior to others. It uses arbitrary criteria as the key to one's identity, which is pragmatically defined by the ruling elite according to the needs of the historical moment: 'two founding nations' one day - and 'English', 'French', 'Natives', 'non-Natives', 'us' versus 'them' another day.

The racist notion is that such 'communities' are insular and isolated from each other, have nothing in common, and are constantly in conflict, squabbling over various resources and government funding.

Thus, for example, the Hamilton Spectator is portraying the blockade by the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy to reclaim stolen land in Caledonia, Ontario as just such a 'Clash of Communities' (29 April). The picture being presented by the mass media is of latent hostility between such 'communities', arbitrarily defined by colour, which forces the government, police and other state agencies to step in as the peacemakers. This is called divide and rule.

It also cannot be forgotten that attacks and provocations have been carried out by the police and media in the name of 'racial profiling', e.g., the case of boxer Kirk Johnson, a resident of North Preston, stopped 29 times.

Shunpiking is well aware that this is neither a matter of 'whites' versus African Nova Scotians, nor a 'law and order' or 'vandalism' question. The fire-bombing has deeply offended all justice-minded Nova Scotians. All people of good will have done their utmost to diffuse tensions and mistrust and to remain united against those attempting to create divisions. Birchtown residents are deeply shocked and outraged that such a criminal act has been carried on in their neighbourhood, a sentiment echoed in Shelburne and in Dartmouth. Many volunteered to clean up, and many agencies are actively providing aid.

Timothy Gillespie, editor of the online publication Shelburne County Today, is working to construct a website for the Black Loyalist Heritage Society. He told Shunpiking people have already held one well-attended meeting to map out their response, including benefit basketball matches, auctions, flea markets, and provincial museum status. The Shelburne Coast Guard called on the town to rally around the centre. Governor General Michaelle Jean is to present the society with a long-awaited Black Loyalist coat of arms - in Halifax - on 24 May. A society vice-president said donations are coming in from across the country. "We knew the support was there but then all of a sudden something like this happens and it's overwhelming," he said.

While people are indignant about the arson attacks, it is clear that the silence by the state and its disinterest to defend the well-being and rights of the people can only encourage and strengthen those who perpetrated such cowardly acts, whether as individuals or organized by some hidden hand. We at Shunpiking call on everyone to take a bold step to defend the rights of all. The attacks on the cultural centres and the Pictou church are an affront to people and their desire for real democracy, fraternity and equality. They should be condemned from one end of the province to the other.


1 'Premier Denies Campaigning', Amy Smith, 8 April 2006, Chronicle Herald
2 Most of the KKK chapters in the US South were organized and financed by the FBI.

View from the balcony of the Saved by Grace choir performing at the benefit for the Black Loyalist Heritage Society Benefit Concert, 10 July 2006, St Andrews United Church

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