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Environmental Racism Panel Members Appointed
June 23, 2023
The government has appointed experienced community leaders with a broad range of expertise to lead work on its legislated commitment to address environmental racism. This is the first time a panel of this nature has been formed to address historic environmental racism in Canada.
The Environmental Racism Panel will make recommendations to the government on actions to address this historic wrongdoing. Their work will support the government’s commitment to ensure every person in the province has equitable access to a healthy, safe and sustainable environment, as well as equal protection from environmental harm and the impacts of climate change.
The seven new appointees – who have significant expertise in Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian history, law, environmental racism, policy and community engagement, and health and environmental sciences – are:
- Angie Gillis, Executive Director, Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq
- Desiree Jones-Matthias, lawyer, African Nova Scotian Justice Institute
- Gaynor Watson-Creed, Associate Dean, Dalhousie University faculty of medicine
- Karen Hudson, Principal, Auburn Drive High School
- Lisa Young, Executive Director, Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources
- Mike Davis, President and CEO, Davis Pier Consulting
- Thomas Johnson, Executive Director, Eskasoni, Fisheries and Wildlife.
They join Agassou (Augy) Jones, who was appointed as the first panel member and designated Chair in December. After his appointment, Mr. Jones’s first duties were to make recommendations on the panel’s work through the development of draft terms of reference and to recommend other panel members. Vanessa Hartley, a highly regarded community leader in environmental justice, will support the work of the committee as project manager.
“Nova Scotia has a troubling history of environmental racism that continues to cause harm and trauma. This was unacceptable then, and it’s unacceptable now,” said Timothy Halman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change. “These panel members are recognized, experienced leaders, not only in their communities, but in the province. Many are connected to their communities and will bring forth meaningful and trauma-informed recommendations that will reflect the experiences, knowledge and community-based solutions put forth by the people whose voices they are representing.”
The panel’s recommendations are due to the government by December 31.
The harms of environmental racism have affected too many communities in Nova Scotia, especially African Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaw communities. I want to thank the panel members for sharing your wealth of experience and expertise to help address and end environmental racism in our province.
Brad Johns, Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Minister responsible for the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives
Assembling this team of subject-area experts to collaborate on an initial set of recommendations to address and eradicate environmental racism in Nova Scotia makes me very proud. This small panel is only the center piece of data collection that will be authentically informed by both advisors and community members alike. This is historic work.
Agassou (Augy) Jones, , Environmental Racism Panel
- Section 17 of the Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act required that the government set up a panel to address environmental racism
- the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives will support the Panel’s work
- the Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act has an equity principle which requires work done under the act to recognize people’s differences and use fairness and justice to address unequal opportunities
- the act also includes the principle of Netukulimk, defined by the Mi’kmaq as using our natural bounty for the self-support and well-being of the individual and the community by achieving adequate standards of community nutrition and economic well-being without jeopardizing the integrity, diversity or productivity of the environment
The terms of reference, developed by Mr. Jones, to guide the panel’s work are available at: https://www.oeaengagement.ca/
Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act: https://nslegislature.ca/sites/default/files/legc/statutes/environmental%20goals%20and%20climate%20change%20reduction.pdf
Angie Gillis is the Executive Director of the Confederacy of the Mainland Mi’kmaq. She holds a law degree from the Schulich School of Law and was called to the bar in June 2010. Ms. Gillis sits as an advisor for the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs, Dalhousie University’s board of governors, the Dalhousie faculty of management’s external advisory board, the Marine Environmental Observation, Prediction and Response Network board of directors, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster board of directors, Natural Resources Canada’s departmental audit committee, and the Indigenous Centre of Cumulative Effects Management board of directors.
Desiree Jones-Matthias is a lawyer with experience in criminal, social justice and administrative law; human rights processes; equity and inclusion initiatives; written and court advocacy; client relations; and research and project development. Ms. Jones-Matthias holds a Juris Doctor of Law from the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University and an undergraduate arts degree from Dalhousie. She is a member of the Upper Hammonds Plains Community Development Association and the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers. She received the A. William Cox Memorial Award from the Schulich School of Law for her scholastic merit and high level of community commitment and service.
Gaynor Watson-Creed is the Associate Dean of the serving and engaging society with the Dalhousie faculty of medicine. Ms. Watson-Creed holds a medical degree in public health and general preventative medicine from McMaster University and a Doctor of Medicine from Dalhousie University. She has previously held the roles of medical officer of health and deputy chief medical officer of health for Nova Scotia. Ms. Watson-Creed was named to the federal Task Force on Women in the Economy, chairs the board of Engage Nova Scotia, and sits on several national population health councils and boards. Her awards include the Nova Scotia Public Health Champion Award, the William Grigor award for achievement in medicine from Doctors Nova Scotia and the President’s Award from Public Health Physicians of Canada. She was named one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada by the Women’s Executive Network in 2019.
Karen Hudson is the Principal at Auburn Drive High School in Cole Harbour and has 27 years experience as an educator. Ms. Hudson has master’s degrees in administration and environmental studies. Her environmental studies thesis focused on environmental racism in the Preston area. Ms. Hudson is also the interim President of the Black Educators Association. She has chaired, co-founded and participated in many community organizations including: the Freedom School, Africentric Learning Institute, COVID Impact Team, Connecting to Africa, the Indigenous Black and Mi’kmaq (IBM) committee at Dalhousie Law School and the Cultural Awareness Youth Group. She also served as international elections monitor in South Africa and created the #1792 Project celebrating the anniversary of the Black Loyalists’ exodus from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone. Her awards include: the Nova Scotia Teacher’s Award, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Provincial Family Volunteer Award. In 2019, she was recognized as one of Canada’s Outstanding Principals for establishing the first Africentric cohort in math and literacy in a public school. She has since been instrumental in expanding these cohorts into other schools in the Halifax Regional Centre for Education.
Lisa Young is the Executive Director of the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources in Eskasoni. She studied biology at York University and has worked with Parks Canada and the federal Department of Natural Resources. She sat on the Eskasoni Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2001 and has been involved in developing proposals for aboriginal aquatic resource and oceans management program, hardwood forest management, the natural resources officer program and Mi’kmaq natural resource mapping project. Ms. Young participated in aboriginal leadership and management development training at the Banff Centre.
Mike Davis is the President and CEO of Davis Pier Consulting in Halifax and Chair of Pier Labs, the firm’s social innovation outpost. He has expertise in strategy, transformation and consultation. Mr. Davis has worked for clients across Canada and in more than 15 countries globally. He has an industrial engineering degree from Dalhousie University, a Master of science in behavioural science from the London School of Economics, a certificate in applying behavioural insights in public policy from Harvard Kennedy School and certifications in project management, Six Sigma, and human-centred design. Mr. Davis is the Vice-Chair of the national board of directors for the Kids Help Phone and sits on the board of directors for Tribe Network, an organization focused on generating economic opportunities for BIPOC individuals. He has been named a distinguished fellow with the Dalhousie faculty of management.
Thomas Johnson is the Executive Director of the Eskasoni Fish and Wildlife Commission. He is a member of the Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere Reserve Association, the Canadian Biosphere Reserve Indigenous Circle and sits on the executive committee for the Canadian Commission for UNESCO. As a member of the Eskasoni Mi’kmaw Language initiative group, he helps to promote and preserve the Mi’kmaw language. Mr. Johnson works closely with elders on cultural issues for sustainability of natural resources and traditional knowledge. He has led projects to preserve Mi’kmaw traditional knowledge such as Mi’kmaw medicines.
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