Promoting Human Rights Throughout Nova Scotia

Equity consultant Otis Daye shares his successful actions to create an environment of equality and tolerance in the schools of Halifax, Canada.
Advocate Otis Daye is on a journey to make human rights a reality across Nova Scotia, Canada.

Otis Daye is a human rights advocate working with the Youth for Human Rights International program in Nova Scotia, Canada, which is one of the country’s 13 provinces and territories located on the Eastern Seaboard of North America. Daye is the Equity Consultant for Halifax Regional Centre for Education, the public school district responsible for 137 schools.

Daye was born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, by an African Nova Scotian father and a Guyanese mother. His grandfather was a Canadian lightweight champion in boxing, the first black Sergeant at Arms in Canada and a human rights activist. A street was named after his grandfather, as well as an Afrocentric learning institute: the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute. Over the years, Otis Daye has been an actor, songwriter and performer. He says his son, Bishop, is hands down his greatest accomplishment.

“I have always been involved in helping youth develop in Nova Scotia.

“My grandfather is a huge motivation for why I do the work that I do. When the opportunity originally presented itself, I was in a position that I really enjoyed, but felt a calling to make the shift to be working in the area of human rights, as this was the work that my grandfather did. He was instrumental in establishing the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and that is something that always stuck with me. Now that I am able to do that with young people, it is a true blessing and a gift. Also, I see the need to level the playing field for everyone. As a society, we are constantly wrestling with issues of human rights and social justice, and that is very confusing for students and kids to understand. I really wanted to help people calm down, talk openly and honestly, and think about how we can all do this work together.

“Currently, I am trying to make every school in our province a more equitable place for all students. This means that every student is able to walk into a school and feel like they can express themselves in whatever way they choose without fear or hesitation that others will put them down. This can only be done by establishing a culture of acceptance, understanding and trust in every school. I use what I have been calling ‘Equity Teams’ in order to meet this goal. First, I work with staff to identify and address issues of discrimination, racism or prejudice of any sort and then provide them with the tools necessary to do so competently. From there, I engage the students in the process of identifying and calling out elements of their school culture that are not working for them from an equitable point of view. Lastly, I look at the instructional practices of the staff to make sure that they are using the lens of equity when working with their students.

I work in an area that requires me to talk about race and racism on a regular basis. I am sometimes faced with ignorance, misunderstandings, unrealistic expectations and a genuine lack of understanding from educators, students and community members. This is by far the most difficult part of what I do, as I always have to separate my personal feelings from my work. The greatest asset I have is the ability to make people feel comfortable enough to expose their own vulnerabilities. This is necessary because we can’t have change without honesty, and we can’t have honesty if people are afraid.

“I use the Youth for Human Rights Education Kits as one of the core resources for the Equity Teams. Specifically at the high school level where students are able to work with the Staff Lead Equity Team to identify and promote human rights throughout their school. At the elementary and junior high levels, the kits are a resource for staff who use them as guides to create lessons and workshops.”