New funding will allow the African Nova Scotian Institute to hire a team to provide free legal advice

Robert Wright is the Executive Director of the African Nova Scotian Justice Institute.  (Robert Short/CBC - photo credit)

Robert Wright is the Executive Director of the African Nova Scotian Justice Institute. (Robert Short/CBC – photo credit)

The African Nova Scotian Justice Institute will receive more than $607,000 in federal funding to hire a team dedicated to providing free legal advice to Black Nova Scotians.

Canada’s Justice Department on Wednesday announced the new funding that will be made available through the Justice Partnership and Innovation Program over the next three years.

Robert Wright, executive director of ANSJI, said the funding will allow the institute to hire a full-time attorney, paralegal, paralegal and researcher trained in critical race awareness.

“This is genuine public education and legal advice for individuals who may have issues related to property or civic matters, employment matters, human rights concerns, or even concerns related to police misconduct,” Wright told CBC radio Main Street Halifax.

“Being able to walk those avenues and knowing that you have the opportunity to consult with an attorney really gives people the opportunity to better understand their rights.”

Wright said this type of process is revolutionary for people who may not know how to advocate for themselves.

“People of African descent are discriminated against in such a systematic and historical way that it is an uphill struggle for Black people to understand and assert their rights in many areas, so this will be an opportunity … to fight against the injustices that Black people experience,” he said.

He said this program is different from legal aid because it is dedicated to the black community and has no income threshold or fees.

Recognition of systemic discrimination

Wright said the funding also serves as an acknowledgment by the federal government that black people “are systematically discriminated against and the systems that we have right now haven’t addressed that.”

“They say the lay definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” he said.

“So innovation is the key word here — this is a program that funds a community agency like the Justice Institute to do things differently to get that different outcome, and the other outcome is the dismantling of the systemic racism that black people are experiencing.”

Wright said the funding is already being used as one person has been hired. Support is expected to ramp up in the coming days.

“It’s very exciting. We’re pretty excited about it,” he said.

“It’s not like it’s going to be easy, but it’s exciting to have the resources to start this work.”

For more stories about Black Canadians’ experiences—from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community—see Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.





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