At times I've thought to myself: what is the point of arguing over the name? It seems a waste of time, energy, and money.
I've considered whether autonomy and self-determination are really at risk. Questioned whether this is a conflict of personalities and egos, or something more?
Wondered how important the name of the institute is in the context of continued discrimination in education and the workforce? Should the community be mobilizing around this issue?
On Monday, May 5, 2014, I attended the Supreme Court hearing about the naming dispute to hear details firsthand. The following is intended to record the events of the day and put forth my own thoughts on the matter. Please note that there are endnotes, which can be accessed by clicking the links within the document or by scrolling down.
Setting the scene:
This hearing took place at the Law Courts building, 1815 Upper Water Street, in court room 701i. 15-20 community members crowded onto two benches and a couple of extra chairs to hear the arguments of Sherry Conlon representing the Africentric Learning Institute of Nova Scotia (A.L.I.), Edward Gores representing the Registrar's office, and Lauren Grant representing the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Africentric Learning Institute (D.B.D.A.L.I.). The proceedings ran from around 9:45am – 3:45pm including breaks, and were presided over by Justice LeBlanc. [/block]
She said, he said, she said: argument summaries
Many arguments were madeiiand the court will decide two main things.
Was the referenced decision reasonable given the law?
Might a “reasonable” person perceive bias in this situation?
The second issue is mainly significant because if no bias is found, the issue is more likely to be referred back to the Registrar's office for resolution.
I've detailed the arguments in more depth in the endnotes. Ms. Conlon argued that the decision is both unreasonable and biased. Mr. Gores did not argue the reasonableness of the decision, but did argue that it was not biased and, if found unreasonable, should be sent back to the Registrar's office for resolution. Ms. Grant argued the decision is reasonable and unbiased.
Justice LeBlanc understandably was not in the position to render a decision at that time, but said he would render one as soon as possible after reading a bit more and considering the arguments.
So what....do I say?
Nearly 20 years ago the BLAC report was released. A whole generation of children has gone through the education system. Where are we after a generation of efforts? This question remains paramount. It is impossible for me to say anything about anything else, before publicly asking individuals and organizations to publicly account for what they've spent the last 20 years doing. Call me naive, but I think the people who lead education organizations (and their employees) all sincerely care about the success of African Nova Scotian learners, but it is up to us, as individuals, staff, and members of these organizations to demand accountability.
Back to the issue at hand....is this name disputeiii important? Yes and no. Yes because it frightens me to think that any organization or group of people would align themselves with the might of the government and consider that power differential sufficient to silence dissent. Institutions (public and private) have actively ignored and disengaged with African Nova Scotian communities for hundreds of years. It is always our responsibility to challenge such a stance. No because this fight feels rooted in the insulated experiences of well-educated elites, even as significant numbers of Black people remain constrained by racism and a lack of access to quality education. The gauge for how important this issue is has to be related in a tangible way to the lives of those most affected by inequality.
I attended the hearing and wrote this piece because I believe public education is everyone's domain. Change seems likely only if everyone can engage in the fight, especially those previously disserviced by the system. The revolution will not be televised, but it also won't be scripted and a producer will not call you up and give you a role. We have to find a way to contribute; hold high expectations for ourselves, our children, and our leaders; and actively reject the lie that Black people lack intelligence, drive, or the unity necessary to better our communities.
Organize, act, assess, repeat.
Please leave respectful comments and corrections in the comments section.
i Court room 701 was really warm (above 24.5 degrees C for most of the morning, falling to around 23.5 degrees C later in the afternoon). The majority of the room was taken up by three rows of tables and chairs (the first row being occupied by Mr. Gores, the second by Ms. Conlon and her associate, and the third by Ms. Grant).
ii Ms. Conlon's Arguments:
1) The June 2013 Registrar's decision was unreasonable because the larger context was not considered, and the registrar had the legal responsibility of seeking out a context.
2) A “reasonable” person might perceive bias from the Registrar's office due to a change in the Registrar's position following a meeting with a staff member of the Department of Education.
3) If the decision was unreasonable and there was a “reasonable apprehension of bias”, then the remedy should be the court ordering D.B.D.A.L.I. to change its name, not the matter being referred back to the Registrar.
Mr. Gores – for the Registrar's office:
1) The law recognizes similar names may come about “advertently or otherwise”, and it is up to the Registrar to make decisions and follow the guidelines in the law, not the court.
2) The Registrar made her decision based on the facts she had at the time, and there is not sufficient evidence of bias since she was open-minded going into the meeting before allowing the name change, so if deemed unreasonable, the matter should be returned to the Registrar’s office for review.
Ms. Grant – for D.B.D.A.L.I.:
1) The Registrar acted reasonably and without bias.
2) The names are sufficiently different. Africentric Learning Institute is descriptive of the business and and the distinct parts of the names (“Delmore “Buddy” Daye” and “of Nova Scotia,” respectively) are sufficient to not deceive the public.
iii A simplistic timeline as it relates to the Registrar's decision is as follows....
2006 – A.L.I. tries to incorporate, but can't because another organization (the Africentric Learning Association) is registered
2008 – A.L.I. actually incorporates as Africentric Learning Institute of Nova Scotia after A.L.A. agrees to change its name and gives permission to A.L.I.
2012 – Dispute about the name arises.
Sept. 2012 Paul Ashe tries to change the name of A.L.I.
Oct. 2012 Paul Ashe registers the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute as a board member and the secretary of that organization. Later in the month Paul Ashe submits a request to add “Africentric” into the title of the institute, although the initial request had been rejected. After the name change request, the Registrar agrees to a meeting attended by Mr. Ashe and another unidentified person (purportedly Patrick Kakembo). The Registrar agrees to the name change.
2013 – The Registrar does not open a name dispute file and concludes that since 50% of the name in each organization is different, there is not a likelihood that the public will be deceived (the only relevant legal test).
A main contention between the various sides is whether the Registrar perceived Mr. Ashe to be acting as a private citizen, or as an employee of the Department of Education.