'That's a death threat': Nova Scotia couple speaks out after noose incident
HALIFAX -- A Nova Scotia couple is speaking out after they say a disturbing act of racism marred a recent family camping trip.
Greg Dean is Black, as is their nine-year-old son. Cyndi Rafuse and their 13-year-old son are white.
The group went to the Chester Basin, N.S., area this past weekend to join several other families for a few days of fun in the sun. On Saturday, they all headed to an area lake for some swimming. The fun stopped when a truck pulled into the parking lot, along with another car. They say several groups of teens got out.
"At that point Greg realized they were staring," Rafuse says. "We caught the vibes. We just ignored it for a minute or so, and then the guy that was driving the truck picked up a noose and began to wave it, and smiling at us."
"He was swinging the noose at me," says Dean. "And then … his friend had it, and he was swinging it."
Dean says the noose appeared to be made out of thick fishing rope. The couple also says they noticed the truck had a small noose hanging from the rearview mirror.
As a Black man born and raised in Nova Scotia, Dean says it's not the first time he's come face to face with racism. He says he knew "it was time to go," so the families started getting the kids out of the water and to their respective vehicles.
"I'm putting stuff in my trunk and I asked the guy if there was a problem, and he said, 'There might be'," recalls Rafuse.
She says, at one point, she took the noose from the bed of the teen's truck and threw it into the woods.
The families returned to their nearby campground, shaken. After they told staff what had happened, a campground employee called the local RCMP detachment.
Dean says he and his brother-in-law sat up awake all night at their campsite, worried the teens would come there to find them.
The couple says the RCMP did not get in touch with them until the next morning. They say the officer seemed more interested in an alleged incident at the beach involving one of Dean's family members, than in the noose.
"Well, that's not chargeable," Dean says they were told. "Because we were told, being racist is not a criminal offence."
In response to a request for an interview, Nova Scotia RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Lisa Croteau would only say that Lunenburg District RCMP did respond to a disturbance at a beach on Lower Grant Road in Chester Basin on Saturday afternoon.
In an email to CTV News, Cpl. Croteau writes, "No charges have been laid and the investigation is ongoing."
In Canada, a "hate crime" is not something police can specifically charge an offender with. Rather, crimes commonly referred to as such are cases in which judges take the motivations of an offender into account to determine an appropriate sentence.
There are sections of the Criminal Code which deal with "hate propaganda" and "public incitement of hatred," but the sections have historically rarely been used.
Dean and Rafuse say they're speaking out to show others that racism does happen in Nova Scotia and needs to be addressed.
"My son's nine years old," says Dean. "I don't want him to go through the same stuff I went through."
Rafuse posted about the incident on Facebook, writing, "My husband … calmly tells this guy that it's not to [sic] late for him to turn his life around he explains to this racist human being that he a black man is a good person as I stand there looking at all of these white guys and girls who just threatened my family my heart broke the hate in this world is unbelievable."
She says she's encouraged by the many messages she's received since posting her comments.
The Municipality of Chester also denounced the incident in its own Facebook post, stating it became aware of a "citizen report" that "described blatant racism and implied violence."
The post continues: "We want residents and visitors to know that we do not, in any way whatsoever, support discriminatory behaviour."
Dean and Rafuse say they just want to see action from the RCMP.
"To me, that's a death threat," says Rafuse. "And I'm a white woman, to a Black man? If my 13-year-old son can understand that what they were doing was terrible to his father, then these 17-year-olds know that what they are doing is wrong."