Nova Scotians share ideas and ways to make province a better place

Engage Nova Scotia survey shows 85% of respondents think change comes from acting, thinking differently

Emily Duffett (far left) is head of two organizations that advocate for people with disabilities.

Emily Duffett (far left) is head of two organizations that advocate for people with disabilities. (Submitted by Emily Duffett)

Earlier this week, Engage Nova Scotia released data from a province-wide survey in which respondents indicated they were ready to embrace change to make the province a better place. 

Chief engagement officer Danny Graham said 85 per cent of people from the survey "said that we need to do things differently and think differently to make Nova Scotia a better place."

They may have wildly different ideas about what change would mean, but Graham believes "people want to change, they think we need to change, and they're ready to change. They just don't know how themselves to bring about that change."

CBC's Mainstreet Halifax host Bob Murphy went looking for perspectives on what it takes to make change happen. Here's some of what he heard.

Emily Duffett

Duffett chairs two organizations that advocate for people with disabilities: the Nova Scotia League For Equal Opportunities and the National Educational Association of Disabled Students. 

As a student in a manual wheelchair at Acadia University, she encountered first-hand the challenges of making change happen. She worked with professors, staff in the registration office and others to make the campus more accessible.

For example, she was able to convince administration to move her courses, so she didn't have to propel herself up the hill to attend class.

Duffett said she's learned over the years that you can't just demand what you want. Instead, she uses what she calls the "sandwich technique" in emails to decision-makers. 

"I would thank them for what they've done, I would make my ask, and I would thank them again," she said.  

Nine times out of 10 she said her requests would be fulfilled.

Barb Hamilton-Hinch

Hamilton-Hinch is an assistant professor in the School of Health and Human Performance at Dalhousie University. As part of her job, she works to change curriculum, the university itself, and the face of the health-care professions.

In June, she said she'll be the first African-Nova Scotian student to graduate with a PhD from Dal.

Barb Hamilton-Hinch

Hamilton-Hinch is an assistant professor in the School of Health and Human Performance at Dalhousie University. (Submitted by Barb Hamilton-Hinch)

She promotes Gandhi's idea that you should "be the change that you wish to see on the world."

She got started in activism in the mid-1980s as part of the Cultural Awareness Youth Group founded by David Woods. She learned about her African-Nova Scotian culture and history and realized it was important to celebrate who she was.

Hamilton-Hinch said Nova Scotians tend to be slow to accept change.

"In 2016, my son — who's in junior high — can go to the public school system and not have one teacher of African descent at his school," she said. "My [other] son who is in high school is fortunate enough to have two teachers of African descent in his school.

"So when we talk about 'is Nova Scotia ready for change?' I question some of the professions where we have few if any racialized individuals. Especially when we're seeing the way the face of Nova Scotia is changing, that we're becoming more diverse."

Elspeth McLean-Wile

McLean-Wile is part of a group called NOW Lunenburg County, which formed shortly after the Ivany Report was published. The group's goal is to find ways to build a robust and sustainable local economy.

She said one of the biggest challenges her area faces is a declining population, in which there are more people over 55 years of age than under 35.  

"Not everybody thinks that we do need to change and I think part of that is what are we giving up if we change and so that becomes part of the conversation," McLean-Wile said. 

"They're holding onto what they have great pride in their past, but as I've said to some people our tradition can sometimes be an albatross around [our] neck when we're trying to move forward."

She said if the province is going to have "real change" there needs to be innovative approaches to how community grassroots groups like NOW Lunenburg County connect with government to bring about that change.

"We've been able to act very quickly and nimbly and respond to some of the things our community is saying and government can't always do that just because of the way government works."

This article was originally posted on cbc.ca/news/ on April 29, 2016. Reposted with permission.

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