Understanding our land acknowledgement and recognition statement

If you’ve been at a United Way Halifax event lately, you may have noticed something. We changed our land acknowledgement and created a recognition statement of African Nova Scotian communities. In this blog post, we wanted to share our updated land acknowledgment and new recognition statement with you. These are an important part of our work towards reconciliation and building equitable communities.

Why does United Way Halifax do land acknowledgements and recognition statements?

United Way Halifax values the rich diversity of all community members. We strive to create inclusive environments where everyone’s voice and experiences are honored and respected. Part of creating inclusive spaces involves recognizing the Mi’kmaq as the rightful stewards of this land. We also recognize the historic and current realities of colonization and the legacy of enslavement that impacts Indigenous peoples and African Nova Scotian’s lives. In providing land acknowledgements and recognition statements, United Way Halifax seeks to honor and build connection with two historic populations. The Mi’kmaq and African Nova Scotian peoples culture and heritage have been and remain integral to this province’s identity.

Land acknowledgements and recognition statements help us remember and understand the longstanding histories and legacies of colonization and slavery that have directly impacted the communities we serve. These legacies created the social conditions that have resulted in poverty, homeless, and social exclusion. We use these to express our intent to create communities and spaces where we work to dismantle injustices, create welcoming and inclusive environments. We work to pursue space where everyone belongs, and dedicate ourselves to a lifelong process of working towards truth, reconciliation, and equity.

Why have we changed our Land Acknowledgement? Why have we recently created a recognition statement for African Nova Scotian communities?

Our land acknowledgment has changed over the years. We began doing land acknowledgements as an organization after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released their calls to action. Since then, we’ve had numerous individual and organization learning sessions and trainings. Our staff and board have worked hard at building a stronger relationship with Mi’kmaq communities and partners. We’ve also increased our funding within Mi’kmaq organizations. The culmination of all that work has led us to continue to refine our statement to accurately represent our learnings and our commitments. Working towards truth, reconciliation and equity is a journey. It is likely that we will continue to evolve our language more as our learnings and understandings grow.

African Nova Scotian communities are intricately woven into the fabric of this provinces. For over 400 years, African Nova Scotian communities have been contributing to the cultural, economic, educational, and artistic landscape of this province. They’ve also faced immense racism, discrimination, and prejudice. In the past few years, our organizations has come to better understand systemic racism, anti-black racism, and the disproportionate depth of inequities felt by African Nova Scotian organizations and communities. We’ve held conversations and trainings with our partners in community-based organizations, in municipal and provincial government, and with community advocates. Ultimately, we decided that recognizing the contributions of African Nova Scotian communities and the inequities they face helps to ground ourselves in our commitment to dismantling systemic barriers and ensuring equity for African Nova Scotian communities.

Our Land Acknowledgement and Recognition Statement

United Way Halifax is situated in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. Acknowledging the Mi’kmaq ancestral territory is our way of showing respect for and honoring our shared Treaty relationship. To uphold our duties and responsibilities as treaty people, we at United Way Halifax are committed to building relationships with Indigenous organizations and peoples in Kjipuktuk. Applying the principles of reconciliation to our work we offer our networks, our voices and our resources. We invite others to join in moving forward in an atmosphere of understanding, dignity and respect towards reconciliation. 

We would like to recognize that Nova Scotia is home to over 50 African Nova Scotian communities, who’s culture, heritage and histories have been and remain a key part of this province for more than 400 years. For generations, African Nova Scotians have experienced inequities due to systemic racism in Halifax and Nova Scotia and still do today. As an organization that is guided by values of equity and compassion, we will listen to and learn from the first-voice perspectives of Black Nova Scotians, amplify Black voices, invest in Black communities, and address inequities and injustices across our city.  

We are committed to a lifelong journey of learning and working towards truth, reconciliation, and equity. 

Our call to action

Land acknowledgments and recognition statements are just one step in a journey towards inclusion and equity. We will continue to educate ourselves and our organization, take action, and change our practices and policies as we grow.

– Written by Michelle Johnson, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator at United Way Halifax

Originally from the Annapolis Valley (but a proud Haligonian for 10+ years), Michelle has worked with United Way Halifax for five years. Prior to her current role with UWH, Michelle served as the organization’s Inclusive Communities Facilitator, and has worked in non-profit organizations in the HRM. Michelle holds a Bachelor of Social Work with a focus in critical social work and social justice, a Bachelor of Arts, and a certificate in Interdisciplinary Studies from NSCC. Outside of work, Michelle spends her time playing with her kids, exploring her community, and visiting the best beach spots across the province.