N.S. rights board backs biracial woman
by Rachel Brothers
A Nova Scotia woman, fired from her job at the Black Educators Association for not being fully black because she is biracial, has won her case at the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.
The board ordered the educational organization to pay Brothers $11,000 in damages and lost income for violating the Maritime province’s Human Rights Act.
The complaint was referred to a board of inquiry after being screened by the Human Rights Commission.
The Black Educators Association was founded in 1969 to help African Nova Scotian communities develop strategies toward an equitable education system.
Board Chair Donald Murray says Brothers was undermined by association staff whose “colourist thinking” and behaviour created a toxic work environment at the head office in Halifax and the Annapolis Valley regional office in Kentville where she was employed as a regional educator.
“It is suggested by colourist thinking that the closer one’s skin tone is to that of a pure white, the better access one will have to the jobs and accommodation and opportunities available to actual ‘white’ people,” wrote Mr. Murray. “At the same time, colourist thinking suggests that the more visibly black, or more visibly East Indian, or more visibly American Indian, or more visibly Asian one is, the greater potential there will be for discriminatory distinctions to be made based on ‘colour’.”
“This decision addresses an important human rights issue,” said Tracey Williams, director and CEO of the commission. “The commission needs to explore this sensitive subject to better understand its impact and identify ways we can be of assistance.”
To learn more about the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act and to read the full decision in this case, visit http://humanrights.gov.ns.ca.