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Former N.S. justice minister says he broke the trust of the community that deals with domestic violence

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Former Nova Scotia Justice Minister Brad Johns says comments he made about domestic violence broke trust with community agencies that he and the government work with and left him no choice but to step down as minister.

"As soon as I made my comments, I regretted what I said, and I unintentionally downplayed domestic violence,” said Johns in an interview with CTV News on Monday.

“Government and the groups that we work with need to have confidence in their government officials and I recognized once I hurt that confidence and trust I needed to step back,” said Johns.

On Friday night, Premier Tim Houston accepted Johns’ resignation as justice minister and emphasized that domestic violence is an issue their government takes very seriously.

“We will continue to work with partner organizations to do everything we can to support the important work being done in response to the Mass Casualty Commission’s final report and in response to the ongoing epidemic of domestic violence across Nova Scotia and in Canada,” said Houston in a statement.

Johns says it was his decision alone to step down and he wasn’t forced by Houston to resign.

“As soon as I recognized that I hurt the confidence and trust of the groups that deal with domestic violence I knew I had to step back,” said Johns. “I often say 'talk is cheap and actions speak louder than words' and I hope by stepping back that people recognize that I am sorry and it opens the door for a new minister to come in a build back that trust and confidence.”

Last week, during a cabinet meeting which fell on the fourth anniversary on the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting, Johns was asked about what his department was doing to address domestic violence.

Johns said he misspoke when he downplayed the severity of domestic violence and it was something he immediately regretted saying.

In remarks to reporters, Johns said that he didn’t think domestic violence was at an “epidemic” level in the province, which counters what the report by the Mass Casualty Commission concluded.

“No, I don’t because I think that an epidemic, you’re seeing it everywhere all the time,” said Johns. “I don’t think that’s the case.”

Johns went on to say he thought domestic violence was an issue but said he thought "there are bigger issues too.”

“We have issues around guns drugs, we have issues around drugs,” said Johns. “There’s a lot of issues...violence in general.”

Calls for Johns to resign came swiftly from opposition party leaders including Liberal Leader Zach Churchill and NDP leader Claudia Chender and from several community organizations across the province who deal with and assist those impacted by domestic violence.

Johns says following the comments he made during the press conference he reached out to nearly 40 organizations to offer his personal apology and that domestic violence was an important issue to the government.

“Once I recognized the confidence in me had been broken I knew I had to step back,” said Johns. “Once again, I apologize to anybody who my comments may have hurt, that certainly wasn’t my intention.”

On Monday, Houston announced that Barbara Adams would be replacing Johns as minister of justice and attorney general and she would also maintain her portfolio as minister of seniors and long-term care.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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