2018 has been a very busy year, and it’s only February!
February was mental health month in our office. As part of our inventory of services, we met with CMHA NS, Among Friends Social Club, the NS Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team, the Healthy Minds Cooperative, and the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia. We want to make sure we understand the lay of the land. The most crucial pieces of information we came away with were, first, that there are many free resources for people who are experiencing mental instability in one way or another and for their families, and, second, that 211 is a comprehensive resource for helping folks navigate the services they need with efficiency and professionalism.
We were excited to kick off the new year by hosting the Downtown Dartmouth Business Links breakfast at our office. We had a great turnout and it was inspiring to hear about all of the amazing work our local business community is doing, and how well supported they are.
I had the opportunity to get a detailed update on the expansion plans for King’s Wharf—grocery store and all! While there are still lots of details to work out, I look forward to the continued expansion of this great project.
Of course, February is also African Heritage Month. There has been an abundance of wonderful programming at our Woodlawn and Alderney Libraries and I’ve been lucky to take in much of the stories, drumming, song, and dance! We’ve also spent time this February working on the important issue of Street Checks. African Nova Scotians are disproportionately stopped by police without grounds in Nova Scotia. The effects of this longstanding practice are myriad and awful, and as a caucus we are calling for an immediate end to the practice. The NS Human Rights Commission is studying the issue, but we see no reason that there can’t be an immediate freeze in the meantime—effectively barring police from collecting and recording personal information when someone is stopped without reasonable grounds.
As Justice and Human Rights Commission Spokesperson for the NDP I attended the Indigenous, Black, and Mikm’aw reception held by the Minister of Justice at Province House. It was a wonderful and very well attended event. It was great to catch up with my former colleagues at the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, and to hear from students, judges, and lawyers about the future of legal practice, how far we’ve come in the representation of diverse communities at the Bar and on the Bench, and of course how far we still have to go.
Further to that file I had the opportunity to visit the Waterville Youth Centre in the Annapolis Valley with several MLA colleagues from the NS Legislature. We had a chance to chat with the youth living there and get a sense of their experience. While I was impressed with the staff and the robust level of physical and mental health services available, it was doubly disheartening to realize how different it is for these kids when they return to their communities—long waitlists for mental health, poverty, lack of social services. I asked how many of the youth that pass through could be considered poor, and all of the staff agreed that pretty much all of them are. Similarly, the consensus was that racialized youth are vastly overrepresented. We have so far to go in alleviating the roots of the behaviour for which these youth find themselves incarcerated.
I was very happy to join my colleagues Susan Leblanc, Lisa Roberts, Lenore Zann, and, of course, Gary Burrill at the Women’s March where we carried a beautiful banner that read “A Woman’s Place is in the House of Assembly”. We’re living in difficult times, and the ground beneath us is shifting. As we become aware and mobilized around injustice, situations often reveals themselves to be more complex than we initially thought. This is certainly the case with the feminist movement. After the Women’s March I joined my colleagues at the Intersectional March in Cornwallis Park. These were folks who didn’t feel safe at the Women’s March: women, trans folks, BIPOC, and others who wanted to express themselves differently and more freely. It was a challenging day, full of learning. It’s wonderful to know that site no longer features the Cornwallis statue that has brought so many protests. Change is happening, but, as always, it is slow and sometimes painful.
A big part of the job of MLA is supporting the awesome work of volunteers, entrepreneurs, athletes and others at events across the province. In February I attended the Inspire Gala celebrating Nova Scotia’s special Olympians and those that support them, as well as the Halifax Chamber of Commerce Business Awards, recognizing entrepreneurs and business owners.
By far the past couple of months have been dominated by a discussion of education, specifically the Glaze Report which was released in January, and the 11 recommendations that the Minister of Education has signaled he will legislate in the coming session. To that end, we’ve been called back to the legislature for February 27th (the earliest spring sitting in two decades) so that we can deal with the package of legislation around these changes, the rest of the government’s legislative agenda, and then move directly to debating the 2018 budget.
As Education spokesperson I’ve spent a great deal of time in meetings with education stakeholders, including the Nova Scotia School Board Association, HRSB members, teachers, administrators, parents, NSTU members including the president and past presidents, Small Schools Initiative, SAC members and chairs, and others. My own thoughts on the Glaze report, gleaned from these meetings and my own experience as a parent, former Home and School member, and MLA are here. Please take the time to educate yourself on this important proposal. Regardless of your views, the proposed changes will be nothing less than a complete overhaul of our education system.
Though social media can be a mixed bag, I enjoy the opportunity to stay connected to the wonderful groups and neighbourhood associations through this medium. The Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission, the Pleasant-Woodside Neighbourhood Association, the Portland Estates and Hills Residents Association, Banook Area Residents Association, and the Oathill Lake Conservation Society are just a few. If you live or work in those areas, please take a moment to connect to these great resources!
As we move into a very busy legislative sitting this is probably the last you’ll hear from me in this format until later in the spring. Never fear, my office is still ably staffed by Bev Doman, my constituency Assistant, and Grace Szucs, the Community Outreach Officer. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need anything!
Office: claudiachendermla AT gmail DOT com
Grace: chenderoutreach AT gmail DOT com