For our first study tour as newly minted Action Canada Fellows we headed east to Halifax, Nova Scotia, the beautiful coastal city on the Atlantic Ocean! This area is Kjipuktuk, Mi’kma’ki—the traditional and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq, covered by the Peace and Friendship treaties. Since I live in Halifax, I had the shortest commute of the group, and it also meant it was particularly meaningful to gather with the other Fellows on this territory and to have the chance to experience the area anew. The Wabanaki Confederacy (which includes the Mi’kmaq, Wəlastəkwewiyik (Maliseet), Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot) means People of the Dawn, so this also felt like the perfect place to begin our fellowship journey together.
Our first study tour took place in Kjipuktuk, Mi’kma’ki, also known as Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Reflecting on the week, what stands out most to me is how much I learned about the importance of cultivating meaningful, sustained relationships. Our time in Halifax was filled with working sessions, community visits, and leadership discussions, as well as time to connect informally over meals. Across these sessions and the sites we visited, many people shared that it was their relationships—with colleagues, with community members, and even with people who might oppose them—that are central to their work, their leadership, and their impact.
We had the opportunity to meet with local leaders, including Halifax mayor Mike Savage, the former premier of Nova Scotia Stephen McNeil, and RCMP Sergeant Craig Marshall Smith, who is also an award-winning writer and past president of the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia. In these conversations we learned about the successes and challenges of working in municipal, provincial, and community leadership. We also had the privilege of spending an afternoon with Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Paul Prosper (who has since been appointed to the Senate!). Listening to these leaders, I was struck by the fact that—while they displayed an incredibly diverse set of leadership styles—they all emphasized the need for a values-driven approach to leadership focused on empathy, connection, understanding, and curiosity. A learning that I’ll carry forward from these conversations is that when challenges and disagreements arise, staying true to your core values as a leader is the only sure path forward.
Our visit to the Africville Museum and National Historic Site was full of rich learnings about community activism and resilience.
Community resilience was another key theme that emerged through the week. During our visits to the Africville and Grand Pré National Historic Sites, our guides generously and courageously shared the painful histories of expulsion and relocation endured by African Nova Scotians and Acadians. It feels impossible to sum up the impact of these visits in so few words, but without a doubt the stories that were shared were a call to action for many of us—emphasizing our responsibility as policy makers, leaders, and advocates to ensure that future policy uplifts and supports communities.
Even weeks later, I am reflecting on how these visits demonstrated the strength and resilience of communities who continue to come together both in celebration but also with a commitment to fight for reparations and recognition.
Sergeant Craig Marshall Smith led a walking tour of the North End of Halifax, a historically Black Nova Scotian community with a strong cultural history.
Being welcomed into the Action Canada fold means being met by an unwavering sense of community from other Fellows, alumni, mentors (past and present), and staff. We were especially privileged to be joined throughout the week by alumni, mentors, and advisors who offered insights on the policy making process (Ayesha Malette ‘15; Josh Bates ‘15; James Stuewe ‘14), a primer on sustainable transportation—our theme for the year—(Shoshanna Saxe ‘15; Jean-François Rheault; Brian Kingston ‘13; Catherine Maurice ‘22), reflections on leadership; and guidance based on their own experiences in the fellowship (Scott Stirrett ‘22; Anna Laurence ‘18; Kris Frederickson ‘04; Matt DeCourcey ‘12). On our first evening together we even had a chance encounter with Flavie Major, a Fellow from the first ever cohort in 2003!
It was clear that the relationships and community that we started to build during this tour will continue to be a strong sense of support and guidance for each of us through this year and beyond.
Fellows engage in meaningful discussions, furthering our collective work while building relationships and a strong sense of community
Special thanks to the formidable Action Canada staff—Sara-Christine Gemson ‘15; Anne Matio; Safiya Abdi; and Suzanne Nault—for stewarding us through our first study tour. Now the excitement is building for our next stop: Whitehorse, Yukon!