Diverse Voices for Change and the Association of Black Social Workers Seminar on the Experiences of African Canadian Women Guest Speaker: Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard

Bridget C. Williams

Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard With Bridget Williams

It was an honor to be part of this momentous occasion the Experiences of African Canadian Women in Leadership within the Public Sector and for also sharing your experience Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard.   It was an invigorating seminar which bought Black Women and the stigma of racism, marginalizing, ageism, and sexism out to the forefront.    The seminar is to enforce change and to wake up those who are in power.  This means all Governments.  There are too many gaps and untold stories.  We want to see action and movement in transforming the actions and behaviors towards black women.   There must be a change in the leadership roles for Black Women and it must start with the young girls.

This was an explosive seminar which shook the existing platforms for equality.  The fact that some of the same problems from 60, 70, 80, and 90 have been regurgitated and still we are being hindered by a system that supposed to be for equal opportunities and respect.   Is employment equity really helping?  Some felt it should be revisited.

Senator Wanda, covered barriers, and non-existing supports systems.  Leadership and self-advocacy is imperative for personal growth. It is important to be aware and execute relationship building, post- secondary education, and removal of self-erosion.

Recently Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard and Pastor Porter of East Preston United Baptist Church took a group of teen girls (Young Women of Excellence) to tell the history of the community at Parliament Hill Ottawa in front of all of the Senators, and other dignitaries.   This was to ignite claiming their space in Canada. It is amazing the work being done and progress being made and most of all the incredible leadership of these young women.





Tracey Jones Grant

Tracey Jones Grant opened with thanks for coming and thanked the sponsors for the event.    She dialogued about the project changed to increase women leaders by 30% by 2026.   They want to make a change in lack of Black Women in leadership with in the government. She also stated that we are on sacred native grounds at City Hall.

Tracey introduced Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard’s Biography which encompassed a founding member of ABSW, Status of Women, National Policy Advisory, Human Rights, many honors, the Order of Nova Scotia, and the Order of Canada.  She is a women with many diverse experiences empowered to change equity marginalization in Black Women.   To make a change and empower young women and letting them know they have a right to be in leadership roles who are the decision makers.  By self-advocating they can impact the country and province of Canada.



Huwarday Medani indicated that they want black women in all levels of government, as well as government officials.  They want to bring about cohesiveness in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton, and more cities throughout Canada. There are some entities that are part of the process Black Social Workers, Black and Immigrant Women, Lioness Association, Mic Mac Association Centre.

The Advisory Group started in 2016 six different focus groups with 51 women of diverse backgrounds.

Some of the Barriers which were identified:

  • Systemic

  • Knowledge

  • Faith

  • Community and spaces

  • Self-confidence erosion

  • Gender Absence

  • Leadership Training

  • Education for new comers

  • Indigenous Women

We are requiring government support and platforms.  To come up with new ideas and initiatives, and inclusive school system, data base and mentors for the infrastructure.

FCM workshops took place in April of 2017 a number of 38 indigenous women barriers by women such as lack of government support.

  1. The topics of discussion covered:

  2. Why should we care?

  3. Who does what?

  4. Council and standing committee

  5. Councilors stimulation

  6. Radio talk to discuss challenges

  7. Becoming Successful

  8. To be inspired by leadership

If you keep your flames a spark you can do anything.  We want to validate the school by using some of the women, and for women to also do campaigning for the school.



Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard

The people that have been part of the program have given a huge contribution of their time and hard work.   Which will allow black women and to preserve and make a difference in different platforms which suppress us as black women.  She has been fighting for years to remove marginalization from the system.

The fact of the matter no one is doing our literature and we are subject to disappointment, and key elements are missing.   Halifax Regional Municipality shows racism to African Canadian Women.  We are targets and made to feel inferior. While the stigmas of negative context and content still exist today.

We have reached out to Black Women ages 25-65 and completed 21 interviews which was a qualitative approach.  This covers an array of different areas for senior level positions or persons qualified to be leaders.



Ongoing preparations


External support

Internal barriers

Internal support

External barriers

The ongoing area discussed:

  • Relationship building

  • Post-Secondary education

  • Self-advocacy

  • Over qualified

What internal support should look like?

  • Personal strength

  • Determinations

  • Spirituality

  • Confidence

  • Resilience


External Support from Outside and Inside







Faith commitment

Same race Colleagues

Status of Women

Program designed to Assist



Believing in others

Managers believe in you


Some of the Internal Barriers which affect you are not qualified, legacy stigma attachment, knowledge of social and capital, racism and sexism, Trauma, Health, poverty, internalizing, and feeling of abandonment or isolated.


What some have experience in the work environment?  At time is not effective or efficient.  Find that Nova Scotia is a have not province that want to keep you feeling undervalued.   The systemic barrier comprises of ageism, rules will change, and sexism, financial barriers, oppression, the concrete wall, concrete ceiling, or you feel pigeon holed.   The glass ceiling does not exist for Black women which compounds in time and interest.

 The black voice has been silenced and we have employment equity which does not appear to be working for us.   We must keep going with a purpose and intention.   The report will be written and distributed on Internationals women day.

It will encompass a strong recommendation for the Anti-black racism and the painful reality which still plaques us to day.



 ABSW Bursary was handed out by Winnie Grant to Kyiaisha Benton

20171120_162236[1]Kyiaisha Benton Bursary Winner


The Ngena Bernard Scholarship was presented by Senator Wanda Thomas-Bernard to Crystal John.  The Ngena Bernard Scholarship was created by Wanda Thomas-Bernard’s daughter Candice.   It was moving and empowering that her legacy will live on through her children and the bursary will impact the lives of other wanting to a pursue social work as a career.

Crystal John Winner  of Ngena Bernard Bursary

Ngena Bernard Children and Family





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