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New Unity Collective member would like to see Collingwood initiative across Canada

People of Collingwood: Nova Nicole, mental health and wellness facilitator and public speaker
2021-02-07 POCNova JO-001
Nova Nicole moved to Collingwood in June 2021 with her twin daughters.

Moving from a big city to a smaller rural town like Collingwood can be a big change, especially for a person of colour.

For this week’s edition of People of Collingwood we spoke with Nova Nicole, 41, mental health and wellness facilitator and public speaker.

Q: For how long have you lived in Collingwood?

A: I moved here in June 2021.

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: I was born in Chatham, Ont., but I grew up in London, Ont.

My father had moved out to Alberta during the oil sands boom there. When my parents got divorced, we moved back to Ontario.

When my mother was getting settled, she sent me to summer camp to Beausoleil Island near Honey Harbour. I went every year from when I was seven, until I was 14.

So I’d been coming up here for a very long time.

Q: What made you want to make the move to Collingwood?

A: COVID-19 made it possible, because where I worked closed our offices. We went fully remote. I had the flexibility to be anywhere.

I work as a facilitator for mental health and wellness. During COVID, I’ve been extremely busy. I also work in the academic, both public and private sector. I’m a speaker with the National Speakers Bureau. I’ve been on CTV’s The Social. I’ve travelled and spoken everywhere.

I knew if I were going to do this work from home, I would need access to nature. I wanted to be out of the city, but I didn’t want suburbia.

As a mother who is single, I looked east and west, but I knew for another 10-minute drive, I could live in paradise. So I looked north.

Nature has always been a source of solace for me.

Q: Since moving to town, you’ve joined the Unity Collective. How did you first hear about it, and what made you want to join?

A: I think, for so many people, there was a real reckoning in the summer of 2020 after the murder of George Floyd. I saw the video an hour after it was posted. I was absolutely traumatized by what I saw. It rocked me.

Because I work in the mental health space, I heard how it impacted my colleagues and peers. Being a mixed-race woman of colour, it was privilege that got me up here as a kid.

I moved here a year after that, on June 17. Two weeks later, there was the graffiti at Sunset Point.

My twin daughters, who are now eight, were exploring Sunset Point the previous day.

If we found that graffiti, it would have changed everything for us.

Q: Did that incident give you pause about moving here?

A: When I told folks I was moving to Collingwood, they said, “You’re going to have to get used to Collingwood.”

(The implication being), it was going to be very white. I wasn’t going to be able to find the food I wanted, or the things I want. People may have different attitudes about me being their neighbour.

My attitude was always, well Collingwood may have to get used to me.

Times have changed. That’s definitely my attitude.

I’m here to be involved in systemic change.

It was in my mind. When I was looking for a rental, I would get some glares and stares. When I was driving around complexes, I’d get some comments asking, “Are you lost? What unit are you in? Are you visiting?”

There was very much a tone of, what are YOU doing HERE? It was a different tone. I’d be in a store and nobody would help me.

Every time I’d go somewhere, people would assume I’m visiting. Why was the assumption that I don’t live here? I know it’s harmless and it’s unconscious, but it does add up in time.

With the graffiti, it did give me pause, because I worried it would be worse than I imagined.

But, when I moved here, I had seen what Collingwood’s response to the Black Lives Matter protests were. I was comforted to know that there were very public displays of support. It really meant a lot to see. It wasn’t everybody, but at least there was a willingness to be open to learning and unlearning.

That’s where it starts.

Then, when I saw the community action of the Love Bomb to paint the park, I thought, these are my people!

I was so moved to be there and not see the people who were harmed also having to be the ones to do the work. I saw real allyship.

The people who were harmed were able to rest and grieve and let the shock settle.

I met so many like-minded people. I felt galvanized. I have a skill set, so however I could help and support, sign me up.

Q: What do you feel you bring to the Unity Collective table that’s unique?

A: When you can pair your skill set with your passion, then you have your purpose.

My skill set is people. I’m a public speaker. Anything with words. I can also take a taboo topic and distill it into plain-spoken organic relatable and accessible dialogue.

Recently, I was able to interview Dr. Makaziwe Mandela for the Town of Collingwood in December. It was a high honour of my life. On Thursday, I interviewed Dr. Jean Augustine.

While I’m able to connect with these big figures, my skill set is bringing it to a lower denominator.

Q: What are your hopes for what the Unity Collective can accomplish?

A: I hope we can become a proven model of success of what rural Canadians can do when it comes to creating equity, inclusion and accessibility in their communities.

It’s systemic change.

I hope there can be Unity Collectives across Canada. I’d love to see it.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like people in Collingwood to know about you?

A: I plan on being here for a long time. I’m invested in this community and I care about this place and the people here.

Sometimes care can look confrontational. The intention is, we want the same thing. I will absolutely be vocal and involved.

I really think Collingwood can be a model for towns and rural Canada for the future.

For our feature People of Collingwood, we’ll be speaking with interesting people who are either from or are contributing to the Collingwood community in some way, letting them tell their own stories in their own words. This feature will run on CollingwoodToday every weekend. If you’d like to nominate or suggest someone to be featured in People of Collingwood, email jessica@villagemedia.ca.


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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 12 years of experience to her role as regional reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood, County of Simcoe and education.
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