CREA Supports Community Champions through the BlackNorth Initiative

Black-led and Black-serving charities and non-profits are significantly underfunded in Canada, meaning they face greater challenges in building long-term capacity and sustainability. Despite these circumstances, the Health Association for African Canadians (HAAC), based at the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, has managed to garner strong support in the community, secure long-term stable funding, and build a record of achievement over the past two decades.

Earlier this year, the BlackNorth Initiative (BNI) held its inaugural gala to celebrate their impactful work in partnership with signatories of their CEO Pledge to remove anti-Black systemic barriers, create generational change, and empower Black communities across Canada. Several awards were presented, including four Community Champion Awards, which honoured Black-led community organizations that have demonstrated a strong commitment to the communities they serve. The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) was proud to sponsor one of these awards, which was bestowed upon HAAC along with a $10,000 donation to help further their good work.

According to their website, HAAC was created “to address African Canadian health issues and the system inequities affecting health.”

The formation of HAAC was a project sponsored by the Dalhousie School of Nursing and the Atlantic Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health. The project focused on women’s health, but stakeholders acknowledged that women’s health was a subset of the health of the entire family.

“Today, HAAC has a broad mandate and [is] ready to implement a business plan with the goals, objectives and deliverables to meet its needs,” their website states.

HAAC has fought a long and often lonely struggle to ensure a high standard of appropriate care in health services is provided to Nova Scotia’s Black communities. “We’ve never been funded appropriately until last year [2022], the first year of government funding,” said co-founder and current Co-President Sharon Davis-Murdoch. “We wouldn’t get funding for projects – so, we sustained ourselves on $6,000 here, $5,000 there.”

Despite these challenging realities, the organization persevered to fill a need that likely would have gone unaddressed without sustained efforts from volunteers for more than two decades. Now that the provincial government has started to provide direct funding, there’s enough to employ two part-time people to increase their reach and impact.

One of these people is Shelley Fashan, hired as the Director of Engagement in 2022. She saw firsthand over the last few years how important HAAC was for safeguarding the health of Black people in Nova Scotia, even before she was hired to coordinate their outreach efforts. “When COVID-19 hit this community, I can’t tell you how important the work was that HAAC did. They brought everybody together to get vaccinated in a way that was Afrocentric,” Fashan said. “I’m so proud of those moments. I remember I took one elder to the COVID clinic, and the way the folks treated her – it’s something that’s just the way that we are with each other.”

Fashan has a deep personal connection to her role. It’s clear she feels a great deal of responsibility to those who access HAAC’s services and programs to perform her duties to the best of her abilities. “The work that I’m doing for as long as I’m here, it’s really so important to my community.”

Chris Peters, a Dartmouth-based salesperson and REALTOR® who serves as Regional Director, Atlantic, on CREA’s Board of Directors, had the chance to visit HAAC’s office inside the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia. “I wasn’t aware of HAAC until I was asked to attend the BlackNorth Initiative [gala]. One of the first things I thought when they were talking about some of what they do for people of colour in Nova Scotia, as well as connecting across Canada, is ‘I want to bring some of that information back to our associations of REALTORS®.’ Because there are more than 160,000 REALTORS® across Canada, and we are in every community in Nova Scotia – there are 2,100 or so of us here –there is so much we can learn from groups like HAAC,” Peters said.

“Part of my goal when I created our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism Committee [at the Nova Scotia Association of REALTORS®] was that we need to speak to people in our communities because we are representative. There’s not enough of our [Black] community in our association. Just listening to how HAAC did some of that advocacy, that outreach, and going down on their own dime because it was the right thing to do – it inspires me. It gives me tingles. It’s just amazing.”

CREA is committed to fostering a diverse, equitable, inclusive and anti-racist environment for all our employees, volunteers and members. We recognize we’re just at the beginning of a long journey. Learn more about our DEIA commitments on

In his role as Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism Advisor, Greg Frankson helps CREA advance its commitment to fostering a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist environment for all its employees, volunteers, and members. Prior to his time at CREA, Greg was an anti-discrimination activist on the national and international level, and has worked as an educator, writer, and public speaker for more than 20 years. When not engaged in DEIA efforts, Greg likes to read great books, write books of his own, and spend time with friends and extended family.

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