This Magazine

Progressive politics, ideas & culture

July-August 2017

Half a century after the destruction of Africville, Nova Scotia still has a race problem

For many, the reparations do not sufficiently address the devastating effect the loss of Africville has had on Nova Scotia’s Black community

Madi Haslam@madihaslam

This year, Canada celebrates its 150th birthday. Ours is a country of rich history—but not all Canadian stories are told equally. In this special report, This tackles 13 issues—one per province and territory—that have yet to be addressed and resolved by our country in a century and a half


A CN train passes through Africville in 1965. Photo courtesy of Bob Brooks/Nova Scotia Archives.

Fifty years ago, the city of Halifax destroyed the historic Black Nova Scotian community of Africville, demolishing its church and homes and forcibly relocating nearly 400 residents. In 2010, Halifax’s mayor apologized and funded the rebuilding of the Seaview United Baptist Church. The following year, the mayor, in response to activism by former residents, also renamed a commemorative park after Africville. But for many, the reparations do not sufficiently address the devastating effect the loss of Africville has had on Nova Scotia’s Black community. More than 40 descendants have been seeking compensation for communal lands through a class action lawsuit since 1996.

Anti-Black systemic racism remains rampant across the province. In Halifax, Black people are three times more likely to be street-checked than white people. Black Nova Scotians are overrepresented in child welfare and incarceration systems. Black students are suspended at disproportionately high rates. Last fall, when Halifax’s North End elected Lindell Smith, he became the city’s first Black councillor in 16 years.

At the same time, members of the North End’s Black community gathered at a meeting to mourn and discuss the deaths of several young men to gun violence. When the community requested the event be private, some white residents were outraged over being excluded. Meanwhile, in rural areas, Black communities like Lincolnville and Shelburne endure severe environmental racism, with nearby landfills polluting the air and water.

For the most part, white Nova Scotians ignore and dismiss these issues. The willful ignorance serves a purpose. As poet and activist El Jones writes in the Halifax Examiner, “By erasing the historical Black presence in Canada, and the anti-Blackness ingrained in Canadian history, Canada is able to present itself as a peaceful, progressive, and multicultural nation.”

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