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Town of Truro forming committee to address racism

An incident this summer has sparked the town's council to put together a new group that will address the lasting impacts of racism in the area
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An incident this summer has sparked the town's council to put together a new group that will address the lasting impacts of racism in the area.

"The time has come. I think this battle has been going on for hundreds of years and in many cases gone on way, way too long," says Truro Mayor Bill Mills.

In August, a group of three Truro-area women of colour, including activist Dr. Lynn Jones, were watching deer from their car on a rural street.

"A call was made to the Truro police by a resident," Mills tells NEWS 95.7's The Todd Veinotte Show.

Mills explains that the incident is complex, as a newly constructed apartment complex in the area had previously been targeted by thieves.

"Someone backed a truck up to the apartment complex and stole some plywood," he says. "[The developer] asked the lady to keep an eye on the project, and she did that."

Mills says police responded to the women who were deer-watching, and the situation escalated.

"There was an accusation of profiling," he adds.

The Mayor acknowledges that the situation could have been handled better, and says he wants to improve relations with the Black community.

Mills says it's been an issue he's been trying to address as Mayor. Three years ago, he met with members of the Black community and MP Bill Casey to discuss how best to move forward towards reparations.

"We had a lengthy discussion that night about the history of the community, racism and other things," he says. "And that night, I made a pledge that one of the things that is coming up in our current discussion is the whole idea of exclusion from the historical recognition."

Now, the Mayor is vowing to go one step further, and create a committee to focus on how the Black community can be supported by the Town of Truro and its politicians.

"I think we're the first community outside of HRM that has done this," says Mills. "It ties in with the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent, Count Us In."

Mills says the group will be comprised of five members from the existing Diversity Committee, and five members selected by the African Nova Scotian community.

"[The plan is] to discuss what the community really wants," says Mills.

The Mayor says the committee has a list of about 20 topics, ranging from funding for businesses, to historical recognition, to education.

"We need to identify which ones the Town of Truro are responsible for and can take action on," says Mills. "Other issues will be from the provincial side, and further than that there will be some federal responsibilities."

Mills says one of the things he hopes to accomplish is getting a book written on the accomplishments of people of colour from the area.

"We need to start to document some of the things in the community that they have contributed," he says.

This list includes firefighter George Jones, hockey player Stan 'Chook' Maxwell, and opera singer Portia White, among others.

"If the community wants to get a book written about the history of the Black community, by all means write out an application for funding," Mills adds. "We have a grant system, and we'd be more than happy to do that."

Mills hopes that the committee will be assembled soon and be able to have their first meeting before the end of 2019.

"We should sit down and we should have a really good discussion about some of the injustices the Black community have faced."


Victoria  Walton

About the Author: Victoria Walton

Victoria is HalifaxToday.ca's weekend editor and a Halifax-based freelancer. She is originally from Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley.
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