Imagine having a piece of land that has been in your family for generations. Your ancestors were the first settlers on the land– land given to them by the Crown for their support during the American Revolutionary War in the late 1700’s, or as part of their freedom from slavery during the war of 1812.
It wasn’t very fertile land. In most cases it was land that no one else wanted. But your ancestors persevered and along with their neighbours, they eventually made a strong community on that land.
But from the start, there’s been a problem. Unlike others who were loyal to the Crown during the wars, and who were also given land in Nova Scotia, your ancestors were treated differently. Instead of being granted legal title to the land, they were given things called tickets of location and licences of occupation. Documents that gave them access to the land, but not ownership of it.
For many families, including yours, that tenuous grasp on the land remains. So today you are in the same situation as your ancestors were two and a half centuries ago. Even though you’ve been paying taxes on your land, you’re not allowed to sell it or legally deed it to your children because it isn’t yours, under the law.
Not having legal title to the land means not having the financial stability that being a landowner can provide. And it means constant uncertainty. Can your land be taken away from you? It has happened. Remember Africville? Without legal title, your family and your whole community are vulnerable.
This is the reality facing many families in several historically Black communities in Nova Scotia. This project takes a look at the community of North Preston, part of the Halifax Regional Municipality. We hope to highlight a historic wrong, show how it’s affecting people today and what residents are doing to help ensure a better future.
Not diminishing the importance of land title to the economic and social stability of residents of North Preston and other historic African Nova Scotian communities, we would like to recognize that all land in Nova Scotia is unceded Mi’kmaq territory.