April 20, 2018
Re MLA Elizabeth McCrossin:
On behalf of the Jamaican Cultural Association of Nova Scotia (JCANS) I take this opportunity to rebut and reject the negative comments of MLA Elizabeth McCrossin against Jamaica and Jamaicans in particular.
The article, posted in the Toronto Sun and Star Metro and online, quoted MLA, Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin’s comments, which she made after a debate in Halifax on the legalization of recreational marijuana:
“Smoking marijuana in Jamaica is commonly accepted, people have poor work ethic and low productivity”;
“I worry for the future of our province and country, I grew up surrounded by hardworking people who were clear minded, sober and productive, Nova Scotia already has low productivity problems, we don’t need something else making it worse”.
It is a major leap to jump from legalizing pot to inferring profound negative effects on the Province of Nova Scotia, by drawing the example of the “effect” that it has on Jamaicans. You suggested that Jamaicans are unproductive, lazy, not sober in mind and lacking proper work ethic, therefore, inferring, that they are undesirable human beings to be welcomed into this country.
By expressing such noxious ideas against Jamaicans, you are committing a grave calumny by levelling false accusations against a whole nation of people, with intent to devalue, to injure and to assign blame.
You are, in fact, reinforcing a racial stereotype, which is a residue of slavery.
Jamaicans are known to be very proud, hardworking and highly motivated people, who strive for high ideals and pursue opportunities to achieve higher education, better jobs and better opportunities for their children, no matter their skin colour. Canada is this land of opportunity, it seems you would wish to turn back the clock on multiculturalism.
I would like to inform you that only a small percentage of the Jamaican population uses, or smokes, marijuana. I also “grew up surrounded by hardworking people, who were clear minded, sober and productive”. This is not exclusive to Nova Scotians! Our country has produced many brilliant doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, technologists, scientists, engineers etc.
I grew up in Jamaica and came to Canada as a university graduate. I never smoked cigarettes or marijuana, and I will never choose to do so; that is my personal choice and the choice of many Jamaicans that I know. Some, who choose to use marijuana, do so for medical reasons, some for religious reasons, while a smaller percentage smoke it for personal recreation.
You have mischaracterized the whole issue of marijuana use on the Island. The Jamaican Parliament has, over the recent years, decriminalized the use of marijuana, in keeping with the popular changes taking place throughout North America. This means that it is not a criminal offense to possess a small amount of marijuana for private use, but fines can be charged, if caught using in public, persons will not get a criminal record. However, it is still a felony to possess large amounts, it is not legal to sell or distribute larger amounts of marijuana for profit.
The distinction between decriminalization and legalization is very clear. I would like to point out to you that, at present, the marijuana plant grows in many countries, not only in Jamaica. You should know that generalizations are never fair or accurate.
You may be aware of the “gold rush” taking place in North America, in places like Colorado, California and British Colombia, which have the largest marijuana-growing farms you can imagine. It is an exploding business, which capitalizes on the economic benefits and the revenue that is predicted to come from the legalization and commercialization, and genetic alteration of the plant called ‘cannabis sativa’ (marijuana).
You may be myopic and cannot see the exploding marijuana industry taking place in North America, along with the legalization of its use, in front of your eyes. You may be wilfully ignorant of the facts, instead you pick on the little people. Canada and the USA are planning to legalize marijuana use, Jamaica has no such plans to date. I hope I have clarified some points for you.
It is unfortunate that, because of your latent bias and the bias of your “best friend” (as source on the nature and status of Jamaicans) and your prejudice and blatant racism, you cast aspersions on Jamaicans, by belittling and denigrating this group of people who are immigrants. You target their behaviour and life styles; by definition … that is racism.
Ms. McCrossin, as someone who is aspiring to lead our provincial government, I suggest that you would benefit from cultural sensitivity training and more botanical education about the marijuana plant. Your apology sounds hollow and reflects an unfiltered utterance of words, without thought for the possible impact they could have on our youth, as well as on our adults living in this our multi-ethnic and multicultural country and province.
Immigrants come to Canada for many reasons, but each person is yearning to breathe free, unshackled by bigotry and racism, unfortunately, as a public servant, your words exemplify the act of spraying disrespect and contempt on undeserving people.
Ms McCrossin you have disrespected the country of our birth and all the people of Jamaican descent living in Nova Scotia, as well as thousands who are in Diaspora (communities)throughout the world. As our Motto states, “Out Of Many, One People”; we are very proud of our origins, have high moral standards, strong ethical values and great ambition to achieve greatness, if given the opportunity.
We strive to seek, to find, and not to yield to denigration and disrespect from anyone. You ill-advisedly used our country as your example of the lowest undesirables who could threaten Nova Scotia’s stability and productivity. That is so unjust, and unbecoming of a politician, whose role it is to embrace people of all types and to encourage the development of what is best in each person, who brings his or her talents to help build this country.
Your words have wounded us deeply, by saying this, I am reflecting the thoughts of the membership of the Jamaican Cultural Association of Nova Scotia (JCANS).
I recall a phrase a teacher once told my classmates in High School in Jamaica: “Make sure brain is engaged before opening mouth”. I recommend this thought-provoking idea to you.
T. Olive Phillips