KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Many African Nova Scotians in North Preston own their land, but they do not have the papers to prove it. They pay taxes on their land, but they can’t legally sell that land. They can’t even give it away to their own children.
The problem is that Black Refugees who settled in North Preston after the War of 1812 never received a deed to their lands. Black people actually owning land was not something racist governments of the time particularly favoured.
They’re not alone. It’s a problem the residents of East Preston share with residents of other African Nova Scotian communities.
Over the years, or rather the centuries, the community complained, but nobody listened.
This weekend we present a short video that shows how the problem has emotionally drained one such landowner.
“This land means a lot to me, and when I say a lot I mean A LOT to me,” says Vicky Simmons. “I will never part with this because it belonged to my dad and my mom. I will never part with this. This is going to go to me and my family.”
Much more information and additional documentaries can be found on the excellent website Untitled. The Legacy of Land in North Preston.
It’s the work of a group of journalism, television and radio students at the Nova Scotia Community College.
The Community College students presented such a compelling story that it got picked up by provincial and national media.
Their teacher Erin Moore tells that very neat story here.
Government came through with a bit of money. Residents who want to make a claim can now get help from lawyers at no cost and receive free advice from a number of land surveyors. Several lawyers are working for free.
But it’s oh so slow. Too slow, many residents think.
More funding would help, admits Lloyd Hines, the minister of Natural Resources, in a video reflecting the latest updates, posted on the students’ website.
“It boils down to that five-letter word, m o n e y,” says Hines. But no matter how much money you throw at it, clearing title requires lawyers, surveyors, is just a lot of work.
Vicky Simmons is still waiting to hear from the government.
“I figured if they couldn’t do it, I will fight and try until I did get it, because I need my property,”says Simmons.
Check it out.
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