Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil defended his commitment to reform the province’s justice system on Thursday, after receiving criticism about the approach his government is taking.
On Tuesday, McNeil apologized to Black and Indigenous Nova Scotians for systemic racism in the province's justice system, and announced a new design team committed to a restorative process to transform the approach to public safety in the province.
In the last two days, McNeil has been both praised and criticized for the announcement.
Some say the apology was a long-time coming, but others say they were disappointed that community groups were not approached about the discussions of reform.
“My understanding is people didn’t have an issue with the people that were at the table. It is not only government, but it is community, it is public safety across the province, and they’re building a design format that will include all members of that community,” said McNeil following a cabinet meeting on Thursday.
Among those questioning the premier's announcement was Halifax social worker Robert Wright.
"I'll confess that the last couple of days, I have been the angriest I have been in my memory,” said Wright on Wednesday.
He is a member of the African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent Coalition -- a coalition Wright says has been in constant dialogue with government and policing leaders about the need to address the problem of systemic racism in the African Nova Scotian community for more than three years.
"We have created an African Nova Scotian Justice Institute and we have proposed an African Nova Scotian policing strategy, and there has been crickets, relatively speaking, coming back from government on the initiatives that we have proposed,” added Wright.
But McNeil promised Thursday that community groups will be part of the conversation going forward.
“We didn’t go in and say, ‘Here’s the solution’,” said McNeil on Wednesday. “We’re actually engaging the community and will continue to engage the broader community. It will be all those you’ve heard from and people that we haven’t heard from yet whose voices will be part of this conversation.”
“This whole process is designed to include everyone in the communities, right across this province,” added Tony Ince, Nova Scotia’s minister of communities, culture and heritage. “Those folks who have responded in a not-so-happy way, I’d ask them to slow down, be calm, and give us a chance to begin the work, and allow us to get out there, consult with them and get their input.”
The premier said the design team is to carry out its work over the next 12 to18 months.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Natasha Pace and The Canadian Press.