NEWS
09/21/2011 04:03 EDT | Updated 11/21/2011 05:12 EST

White woman at centre of controversy no longer employed by black group

HALIFAX - A white Anglican minister is no longer employed as executive director of a group that aims to redress the destruction of a Halifax black community in the 1960s after a furor from some members of the black community over her hiring.

Carole Nixon said Wednesday she wasn't given a reason for her sudden termination as executive director of the Africville Heritage Trust.

"I am blown away, I guess that's the best way to put it," she said in an interview. "I'm very disappointed. I'm quite angry."

Nixon said she met Wednesday morning with trust chairwoman Daurene Lewis and other members of the board and was told it was her choice to either resign or be terminated without cause.

She said she was given until the end of the month to choose, but her job ended immediately.

The Africville trust said in a statement that Nixon was the best person for the job when she was hired "but that is no longer the case."

Lewis, who is black, said in an interview that race was not an issue in the decision to terminate Nixon, who has a university certificate in black history and was hired to oversee the group's fundraising.

"There were a number of things taken into consideration but to get into specifics would violate confidentiality," said Lewis.

Nixon, who was hired on July 1, said she intends to talk to a lawyer and suggested the controversy over the hiring of a white woman to oversee an essentially black group was behind her dismissal.

"Where I come from, and everywhere in this country, it is against the law to discriminate against someone on the basis of the colour of their skin, and also on the basis of allegations against them that have never been proven in a court of law," she said.

Nixon was let go a day after some media outlets carried a report that she had left jobs in Ontario and elsewhere in the past amid allegations of spending irregularities.

Nixon said those allegations are false and she has never been questioned by police or charged with anything.

"I'm not ashamed of anything I've ever done," she said, blaming what she called a false newspaper report several years ago in Ontario for the allegations.

"I have never done anything like misappropriating funds or using money inappropriately or using public money or anything like that. I can hold my head high."

Nixon's hiring prompted a backlash among some members of the black community, including Burnley (Rocky) Jones, a lawyer and human rights activist who called for her dismissal.

Jones argued the job wasn't advertised widely enough and the hiring of a white person ignored the sensitivities of Halifax's black community.

The trust was set up to establish a memorial to Africville, a black community that was established in the city's north end by former slaves in the early 1800s.

Africville was torn down by the city in the 1960s to clear the way for the construction of a new bridge across the harbour. The city apologized a few years ago for its treatment of Africville and its residents.

As executive director, Nixon was to lead the development of the replica Seaview African United Baptist Church and an interpretive centre on the Africville lands.

Nixon said the board wanted the best person to lead its fundraising "and that's what I was hired to do."

Six people on the 12-member board have direct ties to Africville and Nixon said she admired them for making the controversial decision to hire her when they knew race might be an issue.

She said she was "extremely hurt" by the board's about face.

"I really felt tremendously admiring of the people of Africville and how they kept the spirit alive," she said. "And I really wanted to use my expertise to move this project forward.

"I wanted to raise the $11 million for them. I wanted this to be a success."