In early 2021, The College of Physicians & Surgeons of Nova Scotia commissioned an independent, external review into anti-Black racism within their organization. Chair of King’s Board of Governors Doug Ruck, QC, BA‘72, led the review and assembled a task force of five individuals who self-identified as Black or African Nova Scotian.
On May 27, 2022, the College published the review, culminating the work of Ruck and the task force, whose roles in the community range from social workers to lawyers.
“Being able to call upon somebody who came from a social work background, from a healthcare background, from the legal side of things…allowed us to create this task force that had broad-ranging experience and could therefore make assessments and share them. My job as chair was to ensure everybody had a voice, that we were able to come together in a way which was both collegial but at the same time, allow us to express our differing viewpoints and perspectives.”
Many organizations and groups have investigated the role of anti-Black racism within their organizational culture since the death of George Floyd in 2020, and the worldwide protests and discussions about racial inequality that followed. Ruck says that this report sprang from those discussions.
“As Covid [becomes] part of our memory, as opposed to our reality or our present situation, then the appreciation, the understanding, the level of commitment to eradicating anti-Black racism may also begin to fade…” he says. “But for those individuals who are experiencing systemic racism, their lives do not change, unless something is done. And that’s why this report becomes significant; it’s calling for substantive change. It’s not a panacea…it’s only a small step along the road. You don’t eradicate 400 years of history with a 56-page report. It doesn’t happen that way.”
One of the report’s findings is that anti-Black racism in the College can be traced back to the institution of slavery in Nova Scotia. With that in mind, the report provides guidance on where to go from there. The first recommendation is to establish an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
The report, Ruck stresses, is a starting point, not a conclusion. The best way to approach it is not as something rigid and unchanging but as an “organic, living document.”
“…It has to change and evolve as we move forward. As the College progresses and evolves, this document can serve as a means of guiding the progression and its role within the College will also evolve as the changes take place,” he says.
In the week the report has been out, Ruck says it’s sparked many meaningful conversations, which he hopes it continues to do.
“…There’s also those who say, ‘Okay, this is good. Now, what about the next phase?’ [referencing] the second part which would be the external review of the external community,” he explains. “The African Nova Scotian community and the medical community and those involved in the healthcare profession who are anxious to have their opportunity to speak and have their views taken into account by the College.”