Nova Scotia

Barrington asks province to move forward with changing offensive place names

A municipality in Nova Scotia has unanimously passed a motion asking the province to speed up the process for changing derogatory place names.

Warning: This story contains derogatory racial terms

The Municipality of Barrington, N.S., is home to communities such as Cape Negro and Cape Negro Island. (Nova Scotia Archives/Google Maps/CBC)

A council in Shelburne County has unanimously passed a motion asking the Nova Scotia government to speed up the process for changing derogatory place names.

The Municipality of Barrington is home to Cape Negro, Cape Negro Island, Negro Harbour and Squaw Island.

Chuck Smith, a descendant of Black Loyalists, made a presentation Monday night to municipal councillors and explained how hearing the word "Negro" makes him feel.

"I gave them a history of how it feels to be like a fourth-class citizen and that name sort of represents that," said Smith. "It's not very far from the other N-word."

Long overdue

The provincial government said last year that community engagement is an important part of the review process into place names, but plans for a public information session were delayed due to COVID-19. 

Barrington Coun. Shaun Hatfield said the names should have been changed long ago.

"If we claim that we're not racist, then we have to take steps that indicate that in very clear terms," said Hatfield.

"I hope our love for a group of people would far exceed our attachment to a community handle or name."

The lighthouse in Cape Negro is shown in this undated photo. (Nova Scotia Archives)

Hatfield pointed out that five place names with the word "Negro" in them were changed in New Brunswick in 2017. They were replaced with names that honoured Black Loyalists.

Smith said he believes that should also be done in Nova Scotia.

"That would be an excellent idea," he said. "There are lots of good candidates."

Barrington council said it also hopes to hear from the Acadia First Nation about Squaw Island.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.