Kingsley Brown: Nova Scotia's racist past

Roundup: Talking About History

[Kingsley Brown, of Antigonish, reported on civil rights in Canada and the United States.]

Even if it had the money, Nova Scotia couldn’t host the 2014 Commonwealth Games, or any future ones, until Halifax cleans up unfinished business and gives Seaview Park back to remnants of the Africville community.

Halifax was racist during the Clearance 40 years ago. On the evidence, it still is. Amid charges of racism, a regional school board has been summarily dismissed, the mores of provincial legislators have been investigated by the Speaker, and the Governor General of Canada last month appealed in the legislature for an exorcism of racism.

The case for retributive justice is so compelling, evidence of the city’s evasiveness so transparent, the Clearance negotiations so revealing of an errant liberal welfarism, that no jury now or ever could choose Halifax as a venue for the "unique collective cultural experience" claimed by a Bring On The Games supporter on this page recently. For all the decency of business and community supporters, nothing could trump our history.

A Commonwealth of colours could not sanction Games where Halifax’s most vulnerable citizens were told their prime waterfront lands, in one of the world’s great seaports, were not worth much; municipalities gave land away as bait for new industry.

Residents asked if they could buy the properties back at a price no higher than they received for them, if they were not used as intended. "It would be possible for the city to include a buy-back provision in its terms of acquisition, " it declared, but "unlikely" because residents couldn’t afford $8,000 mortgages for new homes at $56 a month.

Africville’s soul and soil now is Seaview Park.

"A journey along Barrington Street from one end to the other is a tour of the Halifax social world, with everything from Government House and Birk’s diamonds to the most squalid poverty known to man," novelist Thomas H. Raddall wrote in 1958 for Maclean’s. Poet David Woods called Africville "an oasis" years later in the same magazine. Africville was a community of "integrity and vitality," social development agitator Jim Lotz wrote in a 1974 book review. I called Africville "an indictment of white society" in my 1965 CBC documentary film. City engineers estimated the cost to provide services to Africville at $800,000, the same amount the city paid to remove the community....

comments powered by Disqus