Shel­burne County group, na­tive son re­ceive hu­man rights awards

Recog­ni­tion pre­sented to Eric Smith and South End En­vi­ron­men­tal In­jus­tice So­ci­ety

South Shore Breaker - - Health& Wellness - KATHY JOHN­SON TRICOUNTY VAN­GUARD

A com­mu­nity group and a for­mer Shel­burne County res­i­dent were among the re­cip­i­ents of the 2018 Nova Sco­tia Hu­man Rights Awards on Dec. 10 in Hal­i­fax.

Eric Smith, of Hal­i­fax, re­ceived an award for his ad­vo­cacy to­wards the pro­tec­tion of peo­ple with HIV/AIDS and those within the 2SLGBTIQ+ com­mu­nity from dis­crim­i­na­tion in the work­place. The South End En­vi­ron­men­tal In­jus­tice So­ci­ety (SEED), of Shel­burne, was rec­og­nized for its ad­vo­cacy against en­vi­ron­men­tal racism and pro­mo­tion of ed­u­ca­tion on the is­sue.

Smith was forced from his job as an ele­men­tary teacher on Cape Sable Is­land in the 1980s after it be­came pub­lic that he had tested HIV pos­i­tive.

“Eric Smith knew at a very young age that he was ‘dif­fer­ent,’ and feels he was blessed to grow up in a fam­ily who pro­vided him with a safe place to ex­plore that dif­fer­ence,” reads his award bi­og­ra­phy. “With three younger sis­ters he be­came an early fem­i­nist. He taught school for nine years. He served as chair of the lo­cal home and school and pres­i­dent of the teach­ers union lo­cal. Eric tested pos­i­tive for HIV in 1986; his sta­tus be­came pub­lic in 1987. Forced from his job, he be­came an HIV/AIDS and queer ac­tivist.”

The bi­og­ra­phy notes that he served on the N.S. Task Force on AIDS and that the re­sult­ing rec­om­men­da­tions in­flu­enced gov­ern­ment, ed­u­ca­tion and le­gal poli­cies.

“Eric helped es­tab­lish the N.S. Per­sons with AIDS Coali­tion in 1988, served on the board and as chair, and served on the N.S. Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee on AIDS,” the bi­og­ra­phy reads, not­ing he’s taken part in an es­ti­mated 400 pre­sen­ta­tions and work­shops over the years.

“Hav­ing lost over 550 friends to AIDS, I hope that my ad­vo­cacy work has in some way helped to hon­our their mem­o­ries,” said Smith, who is also a re­cip­i­ent of the Canada 125 medal and the Dar­lene Young Com­mu­nity Hero Award.

Formed sev­eral years ago, the South End En­vi­ron­men­tal In­jus­tice So­ci­ety (SEED) is “con­fi­dent in their stand and de­ter­mi­na­tion to bring to light and al­ter racist acts that made it seem ac­cept­able to place haz­ardous land­fills in black com­mu­ni­ties,” reads the bi­og­ra­phy about the group, and are “speak­ing out and work­ing with other groups to im­prove the health of the black com­mu­nity in Shel­burne south end.”

SEED is cur­rently in­volved in a two-year ap­plied re­search project into wa­ter qual­ity is­sues in the Shel­burne African Nova Sco­tia com­mu­nity. The project is be­ing led by Nova Sco­tia Com­mu­nity Col­lege (NSCC) re­search sci­en­tist Dr. Eti­enne Mfoumou and his En­gi­neered Tech­nolo­gies Ap­plied Re­search Team. Aca­dia Univer­sity, Dal­housie Univer­sity through EN­RICH (En­vi­ron­men­tal Nox­ious­ness, Racial In­equities & Com­mu­nity Health) and Ru­ral Wa­ter Watch are also in­volved in the study.

“We must be­come a part of a new model of clean en­vi­ron­ment and pro­mote health in all com­mu­ni­ties and we must do it now,” said SEED pres­i­dent Louise Delisle about the group’s award.

Each year, the Nova Sco­tia Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion rec­og­nizes Nova Sco­tians nom­i­nated by their peers for work in the field of hu­man rights, so­cial jus­tice and ad­vo­cacy.

Con­tribtued

Louise Delisle, cen­tre, and Mary Man­ning, right, from the South End En­vi­ron­men­tal In­jus­tice So­ci­ety are pic­tured with Vishal Bhard­waj, a com­mis­sioner with the Nova Sco­tia Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion.

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