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DEN Takes Holistic Approach to Equitable Employment

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In 2020, it felt like the world’s awareness of systemic racism shifted. So why does is it still so hard for African Nova Scotian and people of African descent population to secure and retain meaningful employment?

In 2016, Lynn Jones told Robert Devet of the NS Advocate:  “In the Halifax North End inevitably the people’s number one concern is jobs, meaningful, well paying jobs. But to this day, there is not one organization that worries about jobs here in the North End.” 

As an organization working to address systemic inequities and bring about systems change, Inspiring Communities is proud to partner with the Community Sector Council of Nova Scotia in presenting DEN.

The Black Business Initiative (BBI) has launched the Diversity Employment Network, or DEN, with a mission to partner with corporations and organizations to increase Black and minority representation in workplaces and leadership including boards.



BBI describes DEN as “A holistic, culturally-aware approach leveraging BBI’s 24-year history and experience working with the ANS community and mainstream business sector, our networks and unique access to skill and expertise in the community.”

“DEN brings value to your organization by culturally sensitive talent sourcing, development supports and matching, ensuring talent retention,” says Idy Fashoranti, DEN’s Director of Operations. “We have unique access to and the trust of qualified African Nova Scotian candidates. In addition, we help businesses and organizations navigate the diversity and inclusion continuum. We have access to proprietary tools to analyze sensitivity benchmarking and provide step-by-step plans to build cultures where employees thrive.”

The network’s four-fold service offering includes recruitment, diversity & inclusion advisory service, a mentorship program, and board governance training & recruitment. What sets DEN apart from other programs is the nesting within the African Nova Scotian community. Being Black-led ensures they can offer culturally sensitive talent sourcing, unique access to and trust of pools of very qualified ANS candidates, as well as the ability to help businesses and organizations navigate the diversity and inclusion continuum. The Network will also offer cultural audits, sensitivity benchmarking and step-by-step plans to build cultures where employees thrive. 

The BBI was set up in 1996 by the federal and provincial governments to identify and address the unique circumstances faced by the African Nova Scotian community, specifically the economic challenges. They strive to close the gap for aspiring and existing African Nova Scotian entrepreneurs who are working to create prosperity within their community and the mainstream business sector. The Black Business Consulting Ltd. (BBCL) is a for-profit organization and the social enterprise arm of the Black Business Initiative (BBI). The Diversity Employment Network (DEN) is an initiative of BBCL. DEN is designed to improve unemployment, underemployment, low income and poverty rates within the African Nova Scotian community by increasing Black and minority representation in workplaces and leadership including boards. DEN acts as a directed hub for individuals and organizations to come together in mutually beneficial business partnerships which diversify and add new perspectives to the workforce.

Where we have come from

For reference, a barely-scratching-the-surface recent timeline of employment initiatives or statistics relating to African Nova Scotians:

In 1998, Dana Milne published an article in the Canadian Social Work Review examining the “general failure of the province’s affirmative action policy” with regard to Nova Scotia civil service employment, calling it a failure of politics. 

In 2018, C. Brian Mintus shared a damning indictment of Irving Halifax Shipyard’s employment equity practices in The Coast. The company said of its 1500 employees, 5% are ‘visible minorities’, after celebrating the hiring of 20 African Nova Scotian welders. Mintus says there were no African Nova Scotians in white collar jobs, and according to the union, 20 maximum visible African Nova Scotians in blue collar jobs. 

In March of 2020, Robert Devet reported on the release of a Stats Can booklet highlighting the employment gap between Black Canadians and the general population, noting “The situation is bad in Canada, and, compared to other large cities, the situation is especially bad in Halifax.”

In October of 2020, the provincial government announced two years of funding to place African Nova Scotian workers at government employment centres.The program was created by the department of Labour and Advanced Education, the Centre for Employment and Innovation at Saint Francis Xavier University, the Nova Scotia Career Development Association and several employment service providers representing African Nova Scotian and people of African descent communities, including, the Valley African Nova Scotian Development Association, the YMCA-HRM, Career Connections and the Cumberland African Nova Scotian Association.

The Lynn Jones African Canadian & Diaspora Collection in the archives at Saint Mary’s University contains many clippings featuring Black business groups, initiatives and programs starting, trying to start, and trying to get funding. The African Nova Scotian community has a long history of innovating solutions to address business inequities and systemic racism.


Join us to learn more about the Diversity Employment Network on June 24. Register now for “Quit Talking and Begin Doing!

Learn more about the work of the BBI (Black Business Initiative).

Black man with hands in pockets: Photo by Maria Orlova from Pexels
Man with coffee & Woman with coffee: Photo by Jopwell from Pexels
Woman at desk: Photo by Samson Katt from Pexels

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