Significant Event


Editorial: The Apology

On February 24, 2010 Mayor Peter Kelly of

Halifax apologized for the dismantling of the community of

Africville in the 1960’s. The apology, which was part of a

2005 settlement reached with the Africville Genealogy

Society, included a formal acknowledgment of loss.

Africville was a community settled by black loyalists who

were relocated to rural Nova Scotia for demonstrating their

loyalty by fighting for the British Crown in America, but

some eventually settled in the Halifax area in the 1830’s

and 1840’s to seek employment. At the time of its closure,

the community was isolated from greater Halifax by its

lack of city services, such as sewage and water.

Does a court ordered apology really make up for the

injustice the people of Africville suffered? Over 100 years passed

between the development and dismantling of Africville in the mid

1960’s; by then, the community was surrounded with undesirable

industrialization encroachment, including, a prison, an infectious

disease hospital, a slaughterhouse and a city dump. Under the

guise of urban renewal, and with the support of local and national

civil rights activists, the planned relocation of the population of

Africville was enforced between 1964-1970. Some former residents

were appeased with this apology, but others thought it was too

little, too late.

The Apology (con’t)

The minority Africville group was further

disenfranchised by the forced evacuation.

Although civil rights leaders called the

relocation a move towards desegregation and

improved living conditions, they did not

consider the sense of community the

residents of Africville felt. Clutching promises

of education and retraining programs, they

were moved from homes they owned into

substandard rental units. The education

promises? Well, they were easily forgotten

once the relocation was complete.

While Canada paints itself with the rainbow

colors of multiculturalism, it was not until the

emergence of a “more politically conscious

and confrontational spirit in BlackCulture” that

Africville was finally granted a historical place

in Canadian history. When considering our

history in terms of the future, what certainty

do we have that newcomers to Canada will

not be marginalized and mistreated as the

community of Africville was? For some, the

court issued apology on February 24th, 2010,

was a few decades too late.

Rather than allow students to blindly accept

the notion that Canada is a welcoming

multicultural country through today’s

presentism lens, teachers need to show

students this is an ideal and we, as a country,

might not have reached it yet. still sits at atop

an exemplar ladder just out of our grasp, and

to reach it by stepping over the misdeed

filled rungs of the past, would be dishonest at

best. Educators should prioritize linking

current realities of today with the actions of

the past in hopes to not only motivate

students to continue to study history, but do

so with critical historic questioning.

Donald Clairmount

Dalhousie University

“A United Nations committee has also

weighed in on the significance of

Africville, the importance of its history,

the racism and neglect that eventually

made its people vulnerable to the urban

renewal process and relocation, and the

validity of the Genealogical Society’s

claims for compensation and


Matthew McRae

Human rights activist

“It is important for Canadians to know the

story of Africville. As Canadians, we must

always face the truth of our past, and we must

always remember how important it is to listen

to all the voices in our community.”


Lisa Roberts


”Maybe a plaque could be erected with the

text of the apology from 2010. Because we —

we who were not forced from our land, our

possessions moved in garbage trucks, our

church razed in the middle of the night —

need to know and own our part in that

history. It was in our name, as citizens of

Halifax, that then Mayor Peter Kelly said: ‘Our

history cannot be rewritten but, thankfully,

the future is a blank page and starting today,

we hold the pen with which we can write a

shared tomorrow.

It is in that spirit of respect and reconciliation

that we ask your forgiveness.’ “


Tina Loo

University of British Columbia

“Through the efforts of artists like Sealy and

Mackenzie, among many others, Africville has

been rebuilt. As poet and literary critic George

Elliott Clarke argues, their "re-membering of a

dis-membered community" constructed a new,

more politicized identity that helped mobilize

Black Nova Scotians as "Africadians." The

injunction to "Remember Africville!" echoes "Je

me souviens"; it also means not to let such a

thing happen again – to combat the racism that

the relocation exemplified and to overcome

the differences that prevented unified action.”


”In this, the author is delineating a canon of

works speaking to the nature of black

community and against the attempted

dominant erasure of memory in the wake of

Africville’s physical defeat.”

Nelson, J. J. (2001). The operation of whiteness and forgetting in

Africville, a geography of racism (Doctoral dissertation, National

Library of Canada= Bibliothèque nationale du Canada).

the Timeline

Beyond the Timeline

People Places & Environment

The Community


The residents of Africville,

● were an unwillingly passive disenfranchised group with no formal community leader or knowledgeable political representation.

● had settled and occupied the land for over 100 years.

● had developed the land to the best of their ability under the circumstances.


The residents of Africville,

● wanted to be treated like any other tax paying citizens and to keep their community in tack

● strove to be independent and work to provide for their families


Africville had residents that could not prove legal title to the land there houses sat on, further they lacked any formal community leadership or organised legitimate

political representation that truly understood the community and lobbied for them with their best interests at heart. In the absence of legal title they had few options when given the

choice to sell their houses or just be evicted. Further the citizens of Africville had basically two goals in mind, firstly, they were just trying to survive be treated like other tax paying

citizens, and secondly they wanted to keep their community in tack despite the unpleasant industry that encroached on the peripheries of their land over the years. They had indeed

built a legacy of turning disadvantage into benefit, for example, while unpleasant industry such as the city dump encroached on their land and homes, they used whatever material

they could find in the dump to either sell or use.

People Places & Environment

The City of Halifax


The city of Halifax,


responded to Gordon Stevenson’s report to redevelop and revitalize Halifax.

allowed undesirable industry to surround the Africville community.

contributed to Africville’s labelling as a slum by refused to provide any city services

sought to take steps to equalize the standard of living among Halifax residents.

erroneously viewed the 100+ year community as transient.

did not consider the community and human impacts that a relocation would have on the community.

The city of Halifax,

wanted to revitalize the urban areas of Halifax

planned to use the land where Africville stood to build approaches to a new bridge

aimed to relocate the residents of Africville as cheaply and with as little negative attention as possible.


The city of Halifax had contracted Gordon Stevenson to create a plan for redevelopment of the city, and the plan centered around the idea of urban renewal. He

determined that to no fault of their own the community of Africville was a slum and as a result of surrounding industry, relocation was the only answer to the problems that existed

in the community. Although his intentions were to embrace the social consciousness of the time to equalize living conditions across the city, he did not take the impact relocation

would have on the community into consideration when he made his recommendations. The government’s goal of revitalizing the city through urban renewal strategies, was

admirable, the need for the land was another factor in the decision to relocate Africville. Their plan of action included specific strategies to have the residents accept the relocation as

inevitable, and as such, carried out the relocation with as little cost and negative attention as possible.

People Places & Environment

The Halifax Advisory Committee on Human Rights


Members of the Halifax Advisory Committee on Human Rights,


created were asked to create the committee in 1962 as a volunteer citizens group.

included Gus Wedderburn who served as chairman of the committee.

supported the relocation of Africville citizens as the only solution.

possessed limited input and virtually no control over any issues of substance.

did not understand at the time, the relocation could be a case of environmental racism.

Members of the Halifax Advisory Committee on Human Rights,

advocated for their perceived solution for the community of Africville.

were expected to monitor and protect the resident’s rights during the relocation.

wanted to see the residents of Africville improve their standard of living.

also did not consider the impact relocation would have on the sense of community.


The creation and presence of the Halifax Advisory Committee was supposed to help give Africville an organized voice in the relocation plans. Comprising both black and white

members from the greater Halifax area, the intended goal of the committee was to monitor and protect the rights of the citizen of Africville during the relocation process. Gus

Wedderburn, the chairman, was in favour of the relocation and did not understand the implications of the relocation until after it was completed. The general failure of the

committee to recognize the relocation as a possible case of environmental racism would only come to light in hindsight. At the time relocation was considered to be the only solution

to help better the living conditions of the Africville residents. As such, they supported the relocation and advocated for the residents right’s during the relocation.

People Places & Environment

External Circumstances

Key Points

● 1960’s brought a rise in progressive politics and social consciousness

● Social consciousness existed in the context of white privilege, and was essentially blind to the unseen sense of community that

perceived “segregated” communities had

● Despite this rise in social consciousness, systemic racism was actively preventing any equality of circumstance for Blacks


Despite an era of post-war progressive politics present in Canada during the 1950’s and 1960’s, there were still systemic racial injustices which

prevented black people in Nova Scotia from fully participating and benefitting from all that Halifax could offer its citizens. Along with the progressive

politics, a unique blend of technical jargon, and humanism discourse, the promise of urban renewal swept through Halifax, and through rational

justifications promoted a simplified plan to improve the quality of life for marginalized groups. This same progressive discourse essentially remained

blind to the sense of community and security the residents of Africville felt in their homes, and preferred to believe that their methods would increase

the standard of living for the residents. They were wrong.

Cause and Effect

Short-term Causes ⇒ Effects

Urban renewal → Urban displacement of the residents

Displacement → Immediate loss of community,

→ economic status decline with the shift from homeowner to home renter

Long-term Causes ⇒ Effects

● Systemic policies of racism → Capitulation to municipal pressure

→ No voice or official representation

Consequences - Causes ⇒ Effects

● Actual community destroyed → Sharp increase reliance on public aid/economic hardship

● Sense of community destroyed → Further disenfranchisement in the form of societal segregation & isolation

Cause and Effect

Unintended Consequences - Causes ⇒ Effects

Africville Relocation → Emergence of the Black Voice Halifax & organized representation

Emergence of the Black Voice → Eddie Carvery’s onsite protest

Africville residents inaction → Emergence of a collective voice in other areas of the Canada to respond to unjust racial systemic

policies or actions

Creation of the Africville Genealogy → Increased awareness and an organized voice that led to the UN designation report

denouncing the relocation as a crime against humanity, Heritage Canada designation of the former location of Africville as a

heritage site, and finally a formal apology by Mayor Peter Kelly and a reparation package in 2004

UN and Heritage Canada’s designations and 2010 Apology→ Ensures Africville remains a permanent place in today’s historical

understanding of the treatment of minorities in Canada


Perspective 1

Key Points

Halifax Advisory Committee on Human Rights,

● Believed relocation was in the best interests of the Africville Residents

● Presumed the relocation of industry was not an option

● Felt strongly that relocation was a solution to negative effects of segregation

● Assumed that integration would increase the residents’ standard of living


The Halifax Advisory Committee on Human Rights believed that Africville was representative of the evils of segregation. At

the time, human rights activists believed the integration was the first step to achieving racial equality. The felt that the families of

Africville would be able to benefit from better housing and standard of living as a result of living in housing that was city serviced.

Africville was surrounded by industry that polluted their water and air and contained many hazards to the safety of the citizens;

removing the industry so Africville could remain was never an option. The Committee believed it had the best interest of the

residents in mind when they monitored and advocated for the rights of the residents.

Perspective 2

Key Points

The City of Halifax,


● Felt that integration was in everyone’s best interest

● Saw Africville as an obstacle to urban renewal

● Were committed to urban renewal


Progressive politics pushed for non-segregation interventions across Canada, with the increase in and the intent of the city

was with to close the gap in the standard of living between those Canadians who were of European descent and those who were

not. The city of Halifax could cite the relocation of Africville as just one the consequences of the Stevenson redevelopment report

and not an isolated incident. Additionally, a municipality will usually view the greater good of the city as wholly above the greater

good of a small number of people. Urban renewal and the effects of it, were not viewed as a negative aspect of progress overall,

but rather just a necessary part of moving forward.

Ethical Judgement

What is the historic and present day significance of Africville?

The Canadian history curriculum is full of significant events, but who decides this significance? As educators, if we

want Canada to maintain its image as a multicultural haven, we have a duty to provide students with an understanding of

how Canada has historically presented itself in honoring, fulfilling, and exercising the basic human rights of all of its citizens.

By allowing students to investigate primary source evidence illustrating how human rights were historically experienced

from all perspectives, we facilitate an identification of how these events are situated within the themes of continuity and

change.. Subsequently, analyzing how these themes provide implication and relativity to our modern times, such as how the

relocation of Africville has current day effects, provide students with concrete example of historical significance. The inquiry

of these concrete examples develop a thirst for active engagement towards historical literacy growth in students. Modern

pedagogy urges us to move our students through the curriculum with a critical lens, and the relocation of the residents of

Africville is one piece of a puzzle that comprises the snapshot of Canada’s past and it needs to be situated in the context with

which we view and analyze the Canada of today.


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