Canada

Africville named historic site in Halifax

Posted: July 05, 2002

The federal government declared Africville in Halifax a national historic site Friday, expressing regret over the day the city evicted black residents from their homes.

In the 1960s, Halifax took over the land and bulldozed the neighbourhood to build a bridge across the harbour.

Africville was a small, close-knit community that had existed for about 150 years.

ADVERTISEMENT

"The people in Africville never locked their doors. Everyone knew each other ... It was a community that came out of struggle," said Irvine Carvery, head of the Africville Geneology Society.

Carvery was 13 when his home was destroyed. He said the people in his neighbourhood, who had always been independent and hard working, "were all of a sudden changed to become a dependent people, dependent on a social welfare system."

And older teens found it difficult to adjust to this new way of life, where they often lived in low-income housing.

"They ran into trouble with the law, and they ran into trouble with alcohol, and they ran into trouble with drugs. So there was a whole generation of young people whose potential was lost."

Heritage Minister Sheila Copps told former residents that she hoped Canadians could learn a lesson from what happened in Africville.

"As the fabric has been torn apart, so the fabric can be mended. And what we're doing today is the beginning of a process that I hope will place the name of Africville on the lips of every Canadian," she said.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Out of that pain and sorrow, if we can teach our children to avoid making the same mistakes, we can use this symbol as a way of changing Canada."

Many mistakes were made regarding Africville, even before the neighbourhood was destroyed.

City council in Halifax refused to provide water and sewage and Africville was often used as a dumping ground for projects that others didn't want.

"It started with the building of a railroad which split our community down the middle. After that, there was an infectious disease hospital built ... We had fertilizer plants ... And the last thing to come to Africville was in 1955 with the city dump being located 300 metres from the nearest home," Carvery said.

Carvery expressed appreciation for the federal government's gesture, but he also wants Halifax to settle land claims with the people who used to live in Africville.