Culture and Diversity

‘More than a piece of paper:’ Nova Scotia commits to culture

Premier Stephen McNeil and Tony Ince launch Nova Scotia's first Culture Action Plan

A large crowd gathered at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 on Wednesday for the launch of Nova Scotia’s Culture Action Plan. 

The plan’s goal is to contribute to the prosperity of Nova Scotia’s diversity and creativity, through the preservation and celebration of its culture and heritage.

Premier Stephen McNeil spoke in front of the crowd, and he emphasized the special importance diversity and culture hold for Nova Scotia.

“I want to assure you, this plan will come alive,” he said. “This plan is not for us to be able to say that we’ve checked the box on the commitment we’ve made to Nova Scotians; we are committed to making sure that our culture comes alive.”

The government plans to create a culture innovation fund worth $1.5 million. McNeil said they also plan to provide $2 million a year to the creative industry fund, and provide new funding to develop local talent within the province.

In a room filled with diverse guest speakers and performers, including traditional Mi’kmaq drummers and the Maritime Bhangra Group, McNeil said the provincial government has “a continued focus on taking action to address systemic racism and discrimination, and a commitment to the Mi’kmaq community, our founding people, that they will have ownership of the Mi’kmaq culture.”

Chief Wilbert Marshall, head of culture, heritage and archaeology for the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq chiefs also spoke on stage. He said that the action plan was “a very important document” and marked a significant change in relations between the government and the Mi’kmaq community.

“This is our words this time; we had a group of our own people from different communities involved with this,” Marshall said. “We had our own voice of what we wanted in here.”

Tony Ince, minister of communities, culture and heritage was one of the other guest speakers. He said that the Culture Action Plan is about the government supporting the “growth of cultural industries.”

“It’s about making sure all parts of my department work better together, while working with other government departments,” Ince said. “It’s about making sure we’re more inclusive and able to work better with diverse communities we serve.”

The NDP responded Wednesday with a news release criticizing the action plan. NDP MLA Lenore Zann said that the event should have began with a formal apology for “damaging cuts to our cultural and creative industries.” The NDP also said the action plan fails to provide new resources and does not restore Nova Scotia’s film tax credit.

While the promotion of diversity and culture in Nova Scotia is important, the reality of high unemployment and incarceration rates among these diverse communities is still a major issue.

According to African Nova Scotia Affairs, in 2011 African-Nova Scotians had a 14.5 per cent unemployment rate. That is higher than both the rest of Nova Scotia, and other African-Canadians across the country.

And although major steps are being taken to recognize the role of Mi’kmaq history and culture in Nova Scotia, the Mi’kmaq community is over-represented in the province’s jail system according to the Department of Justice. There is a seven per cent incarceration rate among the adult Mi’kmaq population.

Wednesday’s event concluded after both McNeil and Ince were brought on stage to join the Bhangra dancer group who have become well-known in Halifax. After dancing for a few minutes and giving the crowd a good laugh, McNeil ended the event by saying how special the inclusion of different cultures like that of the Bhangra group is to Nova Scotia.

Isn’t this amazing? They’ve chosen Nova Scotia and they brought such culture to our province,” he said.