Desmond Investigation: Official Says Review Needed on How NS Serves Nova Scotia Africans – Halifax | The Canadian News

The Nova Scotia Department of Health should consider ordering an independent review of how it cares for black people, a government official said in an investigation Tuesday.

Wayne Hamilton, Nova Scotia executive director of African Affairs for the province, made the suggestion during his testimony before an investigation investigating why former Private Lionel Desmond killed himself and his family, all black, in early 2017.

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“Maybe this should be the time,” Hamilton said. “It would be beneficial.”

Hamilton said the department should follow the approaches taken by the province’s Department of Education and the Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons, both of which have released reviews of how they care for people of African descent.

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The Health Department should be subject to an independent review because it is falling behind when it comes to serving racialized groups, he said.

“It takes a lot of courage,” Hamilton testified. “They may not like what they find.”

The provincial fatality investigation heard Monday that Desmond, who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, faced systemic racism when reaching out to healthcare professionals when his mental health deteriorated in late 2016.

Robert Wright, a sociologist who specializes in mental health, trauma and cultural competence, told the investigation Monday that previous testimony from health professionals did not take into account the impact of systemic racism, which can often be subtle and unintentional. .

Wright said the doctors Desmond dealt with were not inherently racist. But he said the places where they worked, the schools they attended and the professional development they were exposed to “left them devoid” of a vision of systemic racism.

On Tuesday, Hamilton said the Health Department “is falling short when it comes to some of the racialized groups,” and said the department “is not as advanced” in that area, compared to the Department of Education and the doctors of the province.

In December 2009, a report examining the effectiveness of educational programs and supports for African students in Nova Scotia was submitted to the Department of Education. The report included 30 recommendations.

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Click to play video: 'Psychiatrist who diagnosed Lionel Desmond testifies in investigation'

The psychiatrist who diagnosed Lionel Desmond testifies in an investigation

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And in May 2014, the department began an internal review to strengthen services for Nova Scotia’s African students. The department committed to examining the roles, responsibilities and governance of organizations to identify what services can be improved.

Those reviews followed the implementation of a landmark Black Student Advisory Committee document released in 1994. The report included recommendations to eliminate institutional racism in the education system and improve opportunities for Africans in Nova Scotia.

As for the province’s doctors and surgeons, in June their governing body asked former provincial ombudsman Douglas Ruck to head a five-person independent commission that will identify examples of anti-black racism in university policies and procedures. .

The commission will also review operations to improve cultural competence, equity, diversity and inclusion.

Ruck was also asked to complete similar work for the Nova Scotia Bar Association.

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On January 3, 2017, Desmond legally purchased a semi-automatic rifle, dressed in camouflaged clothing, and shot and killed his wife, Shanna; his 10-year-old daughter, Aaliyah; and her mother, Brenda, at the family home in Upper Big Tracadie, NS

This Canadian Press report was first published on November 30, 2021.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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