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November 29, 2015

Judging a book by its cover

OneNS, in its enthusiastic web presence, says:

LIKE ITS PREDECESSOR, THE IVANY REPORT, OUR PLAN IS ADDRESSED TO ALL NOVA SCOTIANS

Back in the day, when I worked at Harvard College Admissions, we were very aware of the power of images.  So in our brochures, we took care to show students from a variety of backgrounds in a variety of situations.  This included an avoidance of stereotypes, thus anticipating the current problems at the University of Missouri and the University of North Carolina, where African American students are frequently asked "What sport do you play?" and Asian Americans are asked "So where are you from?"

People pay attention to images.  I once had a professor who said "If you can't count it, it doesn't exist."  I've learned to doubt that, but I still love to count things.

If you accept that the main picture on the website of OneNS has some purpose  - to be welcoming, maybe just showing real people doing real things, or the unspoken agenda of the creators, then the images have meaning.  I counted the images and the people shown.


Here's my tally.  My wife Lynne counted separately, and we disagreed by two:

MenWomenTotalPercent
White34144873.8%
Nonwhite951421.5%
Indeterminate2134.6%
Total452065100.0%
Percent69.2%30.8%100.0%

65 images of people, 69% men, 30% women, 74% white, 26% Nonwhite.

For the 18 members of the OneNS Coalition, it looks like this:

MenWomenTotalPercent
White1331688.9%
Nonwhite11211.1%
Indeterminate0000.0%
Total14418100.0%
Percent77.8%22.2%100.0%

In the 2006 census, Nova Scotia was 93.2% white, so the OneNS picture and the makeup of the coalition are both optimistically diverse and welcoming in that respect.  I know for a fact that Nova Scotia is more than half female, so women are vastly underrepresented.  Good luck with that, guys.

Canadians swoon over the precise demographic slicing of the Trudeau Cabinet, but Nova Scotians see a different picture.

The absence of people with identifiable disabilities is striking.  If OneNS intends to include people with disabilities in the future of Nova Scotia, it's easy enough to add a representative picture or person.  I don't actually know if any of the coalition members  is a person with a disability, probably not.  Not to say members don't have personal experience with disability - a child, a parent, a friend - or even an indirect relationship like New Dawn Enterprises.  That's just not good enough.  The 18.8% of Nova Scotians who have a disability aren't directly represented in the lineup.  

What's needed is a person sitting right there in front of the other members, saying "How's that going to help people with disabilities?"  or "Can the much-touted crowdfunding initiative be tweaked a bit to help get people off social assistance?"  Questions that would never occur to "job creators".

There are any number of Nova Scotians with a disability whose achievements are extraordinary.  Community activists, athletes, politicians, businesspeople.  It's hard to imagine a plausible reason why they aren't included in the future of the province.  Ignorance?  Oversight?  Complaisance?

I know, I know.  You really didn't mean it. Then you better fix it.  The failure to include people with disabilities highlights the inherent bias of the report.  Time to reboot.

More soon.

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