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Op-ed: Halifax should stop pretending the Africville case is settled

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The collective white shame that was the razing of Africville continues. New reminders of that shame crop up all the time. 

Halifax officials in Africville, prior to demolition of the community, 1965. The Canadian Encyclopedia

This time it is the City of Halifax arguing that former residents of Africville and their families have no business starting a class action seeking compensation for the loss of their community and the suffering that entailed.

In 2010 the city issued an apology, and contributed $3 million to rebuild the Africville church as part of a settlement. At the time it was clear that not all affected Africville residents felt that settlement was good enough.

Nor should they. Land was stolen, lives were destroyed, a community taken away, and for that the city forked out a mere pittance, a fraction of the city’s annual budget.  And for what, to build a replica of a church?  

The lawyer for a group of former Africville residents, in a court case that is taking place today and tomorrow, argues that rules relating to an expropriation by the city were not followed at the time, and that this evidence should be sufficient to allow a class action to proceed.

The city’s lawyers counter that a settlement is a settlement, and people should just give up already. Oh, and there are other rules about expropriation, and do these people actually constitute a class, and bla bla bla…

Does the city lawyer speak on behalf of my (former) councillor? I have no idea, these decisions get made in camera, apparently. As if it’s about money or something, rather than about doing what’s right. 

What I do know is that I am a resident of Halifax, and the city lawyer doesn’t speak on my behalf.  In fact, I want all lawyers to go away, and I want the city to make things right for the Africville residents, to the extent that it can ever be made right.

Surely that’s not that hard.

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