AMHERST – An Amherst woman of Jamaican heritage is disappointed her comments about her home country were misquoted by Cumberland North’s MLA.
Donna Gogan issued a statement Tuesday pointing out Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin misrepresented her comments when she spoke to the provincial legislature last week about the province’s cannabis legislation.
“I am a proud Jamaican and her comments are completely inaccurate,” Gogan said in a statement to the Amherst News. “I sincerely apologize to my fellow Jamaican citizens for the negative impact of Elizabeth’s misrepresentation of my comments on our land and the beautiful, hardworking Jamaican people.”
Gogan moved to Canada from Jamaica in 1995. She operates a downtown Amherst restaurant featuring Caribbean cuisine. Since the comments were made in the legislature last week she has had numerous people come into the restaurant to offering their apologies for what happened.
She doesn’t want people to think she’s not proud of her heritage.
“I love Jamaica and am proud of my country,” she said. “I don’t want people to think that I am not.”
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She said what she told the MLA was that from her experiences living in Jamaica and Canada that people who smoke a lot of marijuana “seem to be less productive,” but she went on to say she also knows of people who smoke pot that live normal productive lives and you’d never know they used marijuana.
She told the MLA that in Jamaica it’s mostly Rastafarians who smoke pot as a religious ritual.
“I have 17 nieces and nephews in Jamaica and none of them smoke dope,” Gogan said.
Smith-McCrossin, who was first elected as Cumberland North MLA last spring and is one of five candidates for the party’s leadership, told the legislature that her Jamaican friend in Amherst told her that smoking marijuana is completely accepted in Jamaica and because of that there’s a completely different work ethic and very low productivity.
The MLA was quick to apologize for making the comments, saying she was sorry if they were hurtful. She said she would never have made the comments if she’d known they were offensive.
On Tuesday, Smith-McCrossin repeated her apology.
“I apologized to my good friend in person and I am apologizing to her again, this time in public,” the MLA said. “She is a good person who never asked to be in the spotlight until I mistakenly put her there last week. Donna and her family are very dear to me.”
Olive Phillips, president of the Jamaican Cultural Association of Nova Scotia, said Smith-McCrossin’s comments have angered her community. She told the CBC she has had numerous phone calls asking what she’s going to do about it.
Phillips, who moved to Canada in 1968 and is a retired school teacher, said Smith-McCrossin’s comments have no basis in fact. Her association is suggesting the MLA retract her comments and take sensitivity training.
The MLA’s comments have also generated headlines in Kingston, Jamaica’s The Gleaner. Headlines in the paper talked about Smith-McCrossin taking heat “over claim that ganja makes Jamaicans unproductive,” while letters to the editor questioned the sincerity of the apology.