Nova Scotia

Africville residents want changes to proposed lawsuit against Halifax

Former residents of Africville want to amend a proposed class-action suit against Halifax seeking compensation for land that was taken by the city in the 1960s.

Families seek compensation for 1960s expropriation

Tony Smith said the group has evidence the city acted unjustly. (CBC)

Former residents of Africville want to amend a proposed class-action suit against Halifax seeking compensation for land that was taken by the city in the 1960s.

The group Justice for Africville Families includes many members stretched across the country, said spokesman Tony Smith.

"When the city came and took the land, they said it was done for urban renewal. It wasn't. They lied," he said Tuesday.

"They expropriated the land but they didn't inform the people of their rights to get fair market value, that if they wanted to appeal they could appeal, and that if they needed to get a lawyer they could get a lawyer, and that the city would have to pay for it."

There was an injustice and we're finally going to address it once and for all.- Tony Smith

Lawyers for the group filed the class-action lawsuit Monday seeking financial compensation for the land.

It applies to people who owned land, who rented, who owned a business or who had squatters' rights to land from 1962 to 1970.

Smith, whose grandmother raised him in Africville, said the fight had been going on for decades, but struggled with the high costs of legal representation. Former resident Nelson Carvery did get a lawyer, and that lawyer agreed to take it as a class-action suit.

"We may not have the land but at least we're going to have some dignity, to be vindicated. There was an injustice and we're finally going to address it once and for all," Smith said.

"This is the first time since the land was being taken that we actually have the proof of what we've been saying all along: that there was an injustice, and that the city lied and stole our land."

Smith acted as the lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit against the province of Nova Scotia over the mistreatment of children at the Home for Colored Children. In that case, the province apologized and settled for $29 million. 

'Whole again'

Robert Pineo of Patterson Law outlined the legal claims.

"The city did not follow proper procedure to expropriate the land at that time. For that reason, compensation wasn't provided to the people," he said.

In 2010, the city apologized. Three levels of government gave around $5 million to fund the Africville Heritage Trust. But some said it didn't go far enough because there was no financial compensation for individuals.

"Financial compensation would be able to put them whole again," said Pineo.

The city said it has received notice of the amendment and plans to file a response, but further than that it couldn't comment as the case is before the courts.

The case will be back in court in January. The group's lawyers believe the entire process could be resolved within two years.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story stated former residents of Africville had filed a lawsuit against the city of Halifax. In fact, the former Africville residents want to amend a lawsuit originally launched in 1996.
    Dec 17, 2014 2:16 PM AT

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