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Smith-McCrossin apologizes for comments in legislature

Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin announces her bid for the leadership of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party on Tuesday.
Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin announcing her bid for the leadership of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party several months ago. - Dave Mathieson

Admits to mistaken choice of words that were criticized as ‘racist and insensitive’

HALIFAX – Cumberland North’s MLA and a candidate for the PC leadership is apologizing for comments made late Tuesday during debate over the province’s cannabis legislation.

Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin issued an apology on her Facebook page a day after making the comment in the legislature that seemed to single out Jamaicans for being unproductive because of marijuana use.

“On April 17, 2018, I made some comments during debate on the government’s Cannabis Act that were criticized as racist and insensitive. I am sorry if my comments were hurtful,” she wrote. “Had I known that this statement would have caused offence, I would never have made it. These comments do not reflect the views of either the interim leader of the PC Party of Nova Scotia or my caucus colleagues.”

On April 17, 2018, I made some comments during debate on the government’s Cannabis Act that were criticized as racist...

Posted by Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin on Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Smith-McCrossin said the comments came as a result of conversation with a friend of hers who is originally from Jamaica. She admitted to a mistaken choice of words and she said she takes full responsibility for that.

“I would have said the same about impact of heavy cannabis use on any country, but because of this particular conversation, it happened to be Jamaica. I sincerely did not feel that my comments would be viewed in a negative light, but I was wrong.”

During Tuesday night’s debate, Smith-McCrossin made the comment, recorded in the official Hansard, that making marijuana legal could make Nova Scotians as unproductive as Jamaicans.

“I have a best friend in Amherst who is from Jamaica,” Smith-McCrossin told the legislature. “She said to me, ‘Elizabeth, smoking marijuana in Jamaica is completely accepted, and there's a completely different work ethic and very low productivity in Jamaica.’ I think we already have a productivity problem here in Nova Scotia. We do not need something else making it worse.”

In her apology, Smith-McCrossin said as a registered nurse she has strong views about the public health impact of excessive cannabis use. Those concerns have also been highlighted elsewhere by former deputy prime minister Anne McLellan in her Task Force Report to the Government of Canada, the Canadian Medical Association and Doctors Nova Scotia.

She said she is willing to meet individually with anyone who was offended by her comments to better appreciate their perspective and ensure her words are better chosen in the future.

darrell.cole@amherstnews.ca

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

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