A community press conference was recently held outside the offices of the NS Dept of Education and Early Childhood Development in support of the Council on African Canadian Education (CACE). The purpose was to denounce unfair treatment and what appears to be an attempt to divert attention from the government’s abuse of power in the affairs of the African Nova Scotian community.
In August 2014, the NS Supreme Court ruled that the NS registrar had acted improperly in allowing the creation of a new educational organization. This new organization bore a similar name to the existing Africentric Learning Institute (ALI), and, once registered, received all funds from the Department of Education that had previously been allocated to the ALI.
The judicial review into the matter revealed that the registrar had granted a personal meeting to an official from the Department of Education, despite the fact that the registrar had originally refused to allow the new organization to be registered knowing that the department had previously attempted to “take over” the ALI. Yet, following this meeting, the registrar reversed its original decision and granted the registering of the new organization.
The Council on African Canadian Education (CACE), the ALI’s parent organization, filed a complaint which led to the ruling by Justice Arthur LeBlanc in favour of CACE and the ALI.
In what appears to be a reprisal for challenging the government and a tactic to protect government officials from accountability, Education Minister Karen Casey announced in December 2014 that funds for staff at CACE would be terminated.
To defend her decision, Minister Casey stated that CACE never had the authority to hire staff under its mandate. However, CACE had been staffed since 1997 and has in its possession signed letters from the government granting it permission to hire staff. Previous Liberal governments have never contested this. Under the Progressive Conservative (PC) government of Rodney MacDonald, Casey herself (then with the PC party) even served as education minister and oversaw CACE’s affairs.
In addition to this, Minister Casey has attempted to justify her cuts to CACE funding by stating that audits made of CACE raised suspicions about its financial management. The Dept of Education has now handed the audits over to the police. One is left to wonder why all staff were terminated prior to any investigation or findings of wrongdoing on the part of CACE staff, and without any notice to the CACE board of directors, if this is the excuse given.
What is clear, however, is that as a result of these actions, Minister Casey has created a highly publicized scandal that completely diverts attention away from the already-proven abuse of power from within her own department.
What’s more, CACE is now left without the capacity that allowed it to challenge the government in court over the government’s wrongdoings, thus ensuring that CACE can no longer take government to task in the same manner.
For the sake of comparison, the spending that is allegedly unaccounted for as a result of the audit is less than Liberal MLA Andrew Younger’s controversial travel expenses over less than 8 months ($35,000). It is a far cry less than the $2.5 million in additional funding for the Nova Star ferry about which Liberal cabinet minister Michel Samson misled the public.
Have Younger or Samson lost their jobs? Have they lost funding for their offices?
On a similar note, the high-level staff in the Department of Education who, according to Justice LeBlanc’s ruling, facilitated the takeover of the ALI, are still employed by the the department. Neither they nor the minister herself have faced any consequences for the court’s decision.
It seems there is one standard of conduct in place for the government’s friends, and one for its enemies. Minister Karen Casey should end the abuse of power of her department as well as its political interference in the affairs of the African Nova Scotian community.