Nova Scotia has often prided itself for being a leader in the promotion and recognition of the unique contributions of Canadians of African heritage, including setting a path for Canada’s recognition of African Heritage Month in February. Nevertheless, Nova Scotia remains uniquely challenged in its own quest for addressing the systemic injustice and racism that pervades many of its policies and institutions.
To this task, the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers commits itself to working to advocate for change. As we begin the month of February, we join our colleagues at the Association of Black Social Workers in calling for a broader awakening, as we highlight for our members the many important events in our community at large, as well as those that we are organizing.
Our member, the esteemed Senator Dr. Wanda Bernard Thomas once said, “Some people wait for things to happen but I say we must all be willing to lead the change you want to see in your world.” These wise words inform the theme for our upcoming conference in May 2022, and indeed, serves as a rallying cry for our College and our profession.
It is because of this commitment to lead necessary change that our College has advanced a new set of professional development standards that specifically addresses the risk of unconscious bias in our profession. We are also working closely with the Association of Black Social Workers on this project, and we are proud that our new standards require social workers to learn more about how to ensure that their practice does not unintentionally perpetuate the harmful legacies of racism and colonialism.
A lunch & learn for these new standards has been planned on February 23 to help social workers begin to discuss what our role and responsibility is, as a profession, in dismantling these inherited systems within which we work. We acknowledge the unique role that education can play in dismantling these legacies.
The theme for our province’s 2022 celebration of African Heritage Month is Through Our Eyes: The Voices of African Nova Scotians, and the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers is honouring this month with two special panels.
Join us online at noon on February 16 for a panel discussion moderated by Juanita Paris, RSW, featuring Dr. Ingrid Waldron, Darren Toliver, and Mario Rolles, RSW. This panel is organized by our Social Justice Committee, as part of our ongoing Big Ideas in Mental Health series. These Big Ideas discussions seek to provide an overview of different social justice issues that intertwine with the larger policy conversations surrounding Nova Scotians’ mental health needs. We are excited to welcome back Dr. Waldron, Professor and HOPE Chair in Peace and Health at McMaster University; Dr Waldron gave the keynote at our first annual awards gala. We are also grateful to Darren, Mario and Juanita who will help us to reflect upon the unique challenges and opportunities facing Black and African Nova Scotian communities.
Our members can join us again the next day, online at noon on February 17 for a special lunch and learn panel featuring Dr. Delores Mullings, from the School of Social Work at Memorial University, who gave the keynote at our annual conference last year and who edited a recently published book on Africentric Social Work. She will be joined by two other contributors to this historic work, Dr. Rachel Anita Ewan, RSW and Senator Dr. Wanda Bernard Thomas, RSW.
In addition to our events, we encourage our members to participate in some of the many other community events across the province and across Canada. An event calendar for Nova Scotia is maintained by the Black Cultural Centre. Here’s a small selection of what’s going on this month:
- February 8: Experiencing Inclusion and Diversity in the Workplace Challenges and Solutions (Dalhousie)
- February 9: Talking Black, Talking Back: ACB Communities and Africentric Social Work (Carleton)
- February 16: Big Ideas in Mental Health for Black & African Nova Scotians (NSCSW)
- February 16: Africentric Social Work: Black Life from Cradle to Grave (Carleton)
- February 17: Challenges & Opportunities for Africentric Social Work Practice (NSCSW)
- February 17: Fitting African centred perspectives into social work practice (Dalhousie)
- February 23: Call and Response: Decolonizing Canadian Social Work (Carleton)