BlackOUT 2.0 sheds light on challenges facing LGBTQ African-Nova Scotians

Members of the community discuss what it means to be black and LGBTQ in the province.

Young LGBTQ African-Nova Scotians should accept themselves and seek out others who support them, a panel called BlackOUT 2.0 said on Wednesday.

“We need to accept ourselves, more than anything,” said Chris Cochrane, a transgender African-Nova Scotian woman. “We have to make sure we are living and accepting our lives to the fullest so we can help other people.”

Cochrane was one of four panellists who spoke at the Halifax Central Library from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The event was advertised as “an open discussion of what it means to be African-Nova Scotian and LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) in 2015.”

Robert Wright, Evelyn White, and Axel Obame joined Cochrane on stage. Rev. Elaine Walcott acted as a moderator. They all spoke about how difficult it is to accept yourself when you can’t find others who are accepting of you.

“It is a dialogue that allows for more people to participate in the conversation. Four chairs, one for each panellist, plus two extra chairs. Any LGBTQ African-Nova Scotian who is a black person can sit in one of the extra chairs at any time and join in the discussion,” said Walcott.

The panel talked about the challenges that young LGBTQ African-Nova Scotians currently face.

“Speaking for the younger generation, one of the challenges is being yourself. Because if your environment is unsure of you, you are going to doubt yourself so much more, and it doesn’t help you in the least,” said Obame.

He said that there is some acceptance in the province, “but on a scale of one to 10, it’s like a 3.5, not like an eight.”

He also spoke about how important it is that young African-Nova Scotian LGBTQ people find an outside source that is accepting of them. “When you find that outside voice, it helps you validate everything you’ve been keeping hidden inside,” said Obame.

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The panel stressed the need for improved and more accessible resources for African-Nova Scotian LGBTQ youth.

Walcott said she is open and available to help anyone in the community who is in need. White also promised her support to younger struggling LGBTQ African-Nova Scotians. “As an elder in this community, I have your back,” said White, “and the only thing you are required to be is yourself.”

The panel was split into two parts. The panellists discussed three questions and a short question and answer period followed.

The three main questions were:

  • What does it mean to you for you to be African-Nova Scotian and LGBTQ?
  • What are the challenges of being African-Nova Scotian and LGBTQ in 2015?
  • What are the opportunities for moving forward regarding being African-Nova Scotian and LGBTQ?

Each panellist also made a point of mentioning how rarely events like BlackOUT occur.

“We need more opportunities to share this conversation,” said Wright.

The event was presented by NSRAP (Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project) LGTBQ Youth and Elders Project in partnership with the Halifax Central Library as part of African Heritage Month. The Facebook event page said “all LGBTQ community members, friends, and allies are welcome.”

“This is an event of empowerment and validation. It is certainly a rare and treasured opportunity,” said Walcott. “It’s so powerful to have this opportunity so that others will have a sense that they are not alone.”

Vaccination experts discuss ethics of mandatory immunization

The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Public Affairs hosts a panel discussion on ethical implications of mandatory vaccination.

The recent measles outbreaks in North America have sparked the demand for an educated debate on vaccination ethics – and four experts on the issue of vaccines sat down on Monday to facilitate just that.

On March 23 an audience gathered in the Paul O’Regan Hall at the Halifax Central Library to attend VacciNATION?, a panel discussion hosted by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Public Affairs (CCEPA) in collaboration with the Dalhousie Health Law Institute.

The panel consisted of Elaine Gibson, associate professor of law at the Schulich School of Law, Dr. Scott Halperin, director of the Canadian Center for Vaccinology, Janet Hazelton, president of the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union, and Dr. Robert Strang, chief public health officer at the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness.

The four panelists at VacciNATION. Photo: Patrick Fulgencio

“It’s not a science debate about vaccinations,” said Kevin Kindred, moderator of the discussion. “The debate is really on the civil liberties and practice implications of mandatory vaccinations.”

The discussion was split into two themes, one theme dealing with mandatory vaccination for children and the general population, and the other theme dealing with mandatory vaccination in the healthcare sector for healthcare workers.

Over the course of the discussion, the ability to make informed decisions kept arising as a concern among the panelists.

“I think in general we need more public discussion around vaccination because there’s so much misinformation and myths out there,” said Strang. “I think we need to broaden the conversation and that’s what tonight was really about, bringing more of that collective societal good and so we need a more collective perspective and a collective conversation about the importance of vaccination.”

Elaine Gibson weighing in on the discussion. Photo: Patrick Fulgencio
Elaine Gibson weighing in on the discussion. Photo: Patrick Fulgencio

Questions from the audience covered topics like herd immunity, preventative measures, research efficacy, and risks versus benefits of vaccination.

Elaine Gibson said that herd immunity was of fundamental importance. She said that when each person gets their child vaccinated, they are participating in a collective effort for Canadian society, and that parents who did not were acting in a profoundly selfish manner.

Dr. Halperin stressed the necessity of vaccines, saying that “the only prevention for measles is either not coming in contact with human beings, or vaccine.”

Dr. Scott Halperin partaking answers a question. Photo: Patrick Fulgencio
Dr. Scott Halperin answers a question. Photo: Patrick Fulgencio

At the end of the discussion, Dr. Judith Kazimirski, a CCEPA board member and a medical practitioner for over 40 years, was invited to the podium to offer closing remarks.

“I fundamentally believe that if we deny what science has given us, in terms of how do we protect ourselves against deadly disease, it’s stupidity,” said Kazimirski. “How we live matters. The issues we talked about this evening matter a great deal. And I hope that that discussion will only continue after you get out this evening.”