Proposed N.S. law aims to make it easier for Black families to get land titles

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Lauren Grant is the manager of the Land Titles Initiative, which was launched in 2017. (Jean Laroche/CBC - image credit)
Lauren Grant is the manager of the Land Titles Initiative, which was launched in 2017. (Jean Laroche/CBC - image credit)

The Nova Scotia government is proposing changes to the law that governs land titles in an effort to make it easier for families who live in five historic Black communities get clear title to land.

Some of them are living on land their ancestors first settled centuries ago.

Justice Minister Randy Delorey, who introduced the bill Tuesday at Province House, said it's unacceptable that some Black families still do not have clear and legal title to their own land.

"The absence of clear title to land because of historical disparities and systemic racism continues to be a significant barrier to economic prosperity in these and other historic African Nova Scotian communities," he told reporters in a briefing before introducing the bill.

$3M to resolve cases

The Nova Scotia government created a $3-million fund earlier this year to help resolve cases where there are competing land claims for residents of East Preston, North Preston, Cherry Brook/Lake Loon, Lincolnville and Sunnyville.

There are more than 850 parcels of land eligible for this work. Applications have been filed for 527 of those parcels and roughly 200 of those have had their titles cleared.

Lauren Grant, manager of the Land Claims Initiative, said having clear title is important to those who've been granted legal right to their land and homes.

"Without clear title to the land, you're limited in what you can do," said Grant. "So our families don't have the ability to mortgage their land, bequeath their land. They don't have the ability to sell their land."

'There's a whole lot more work to do'

Grant said the plan is to clear up titles in the five largest Black communities in the province, then extend the service to those living in the other 45 communities also settled by Black families. There's no timeline on when that might happen.

Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs Tony Ince speaks in the Red Room at Province House on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.
Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs Tony Ince speaks in the Red Room at Province House on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.(Jean Laroche/CBC)

Tony Ince, Nova Scotia's minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs, called the initiative a step toward earning the trust of Black families who have been trying for decades to have their titles properly recognized.

"We're talking about systemic issues that have been around for generations," he said. "This is one step in that process. There's a whole lot more work to do from all of us in society.

"This, from government's perspective, is just a step in that right direction."

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