75th Anniversary Celebrations
The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission was established in 1967. To mark the 50th anniversary -- and to further engage Nova Scotians in a meaningful discussion about human rights and issues of equity -- Dalhousie University School of Social Work hosted a one-day conference on December 9, 2016.
In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) for all people and all nations. Nineteen years later, in March 1967, the government of Nova Scotia established the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission (NSHRC) "to challenge long-standing patterns of discrimination on racial, religious and ethnic grounds."
The conference provided an opportunity for students, advocates, and members of the public to come together for discussions about human rights and social justice. Participants were invited to review Master of Social Work students' study of cases that have gone before a Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission Board of Inquiry, to critically review what we have learned, and to evaluate how effective we have been in challenging and changing "long-standing patterns of discrimination."
Leading human rights professionals shared their perspectives on human rights in Nova Scotia, and community advocates presented their ideas for supporting individuals who are navigating the human rights complaint process. The conference was followed by a reception in honour of the 75th anniversay of the School of Social Work, Dalhousie University
|CONFERENCE SCHEDULE (PDF)
|POSTER AND PANEL ABSTRACTS (PDF)
|OPENING PANEL BIOS (PDF)
|GROUP PRESENTATION BIOS (PDF)
|CLOSING PANEL BIOS (PDF)
Primary Sponsor: Office of the President, Dalhousie University
Additional Sponsors: Office of the Vice Provost, Student Affairs, Dalhousie University; Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission; Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Association of Black Social Workers
Opening Plenary: Human Rights in Nova Scotia Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
In this opening plenary, panelists shared their views on human rights in Nova Scotia -- past, present, and their visions for the future.
Panelists: A. Wayne MacKay, Professor of Law, Dalhousie University, Yogis & Keddy Chair in Human Rights; Kendrick H. Douglas, Lawyer, Bacchus & Associates; Kymberly Franklin, Counsel, Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission
Moderator: Dr. Arig Al Shaibah, Vice-Provost, Student Affairs, Dalhousie University
Since the early beginnings of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, human rights legislation has evolved. However, despite 50 years of service, each year there are a number of cases brought to the Commission's Board of Inquiry because of a perceived human rights violation. Most individuals who file a human rights complaint, and continue through to a Board of Inquiry, do so because they want to see some change in the conditions that led to their complaint. Yet these cases seldom lead to increased public awareness, education, or systemic change.
As social workers, we are professionally directed to utilize empathetic skills to facilitate an understanding of our client's world, but we are not insulated from the socially constructed biases and stereotypes that have formed our culture. Anti-oppressive social work requires us to engage in unlearning processes to raise our consciousness about the socially embedded prejudices supporting domination of one group over another.
Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard's course, Theory and Practice of Anti-Oppressive Social Work in Diverse Communities, is one of the core courses in Dalhousie University's Master of Social Work program. Students engage in critical dialogue, reflection, and action about oppression, and the role of anti-oppressive social work. Dr. Thomas Bernard designed an assignment using public Human Rights Board of Inquiry cases to teach students about oppression from the perspective of persons who have had to fight for their human rights. The aim of the assignment is to facilitate the unlearning process; to consider the implications of ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, religious beliefs, sexual identity, citizenship, and/or sexual orientation and, where possible, the intersecting experiences of combined oppressions, leading to an understanding of the world through a different lens. Students presented their case analyses as either a poster or panel presentation.
Closing Plenary: From Individual Complaint to Community Action
In this closing plenary, panelists shared their analyses and actions taken to support a community member in the fight for rights. Members of the African United Baptist Assocation reflected on the actions they took -- and the social media tools they used -- to engage the general public in community action to address the multi-layered challenges that complainants face when dealing with a case of systemic racism.
Panelists: Rev. Dr. Rhonda Y. Britton, Cornwallis Baptist Street Church; Rev. Dr. Lennett J. Anderson, Senior Pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church; Rev. LeQuita H. Porter, Pastor, East Preston United Baptist Church
Moderator: Pat Gorham, Director, Policy, Planning and Strategic Initiatives, Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women
The conference was followed by a reception in celebration of the 75th anniversary of Dalhousie University School of Social Work. The School of Social Work was established independently in 1941 as The Maritime School of Social Work in Halifax. It was founded on the principles of social justice and connection to community -- principles it continues to reflect today. In 1969 The Maritime School of Social Work joined Dalhousie University Some years later the School was renamed and became the Dalhousie University School of Social Work.
The School has expanded its enrolment significantly to include a national online delivery of its BSW and MSW programs while maintaining its campus location. The School is grateful to its faithful alumni now spread around the world, and were pleased to be part of this exceptional Conference in honour of the 50th Anniversary of the Nova Scotia Human Rights' Commission.