Nova Scotia

Halifax council ratifies Africville apology

Halifax regional council has ratified a deal that will give former residents of Africville and their descendants an official apology, four decades after the black community was razed to make way for a bridge.

Halifax regional council has ratified a deal that will see former residents of Africville and their descendants receive an official apology — four decades after the City of Halifax razed the black community to make room for a bridge.

Africville sat for more than a century on the northern part of the Halifax peninsula, before being levelled in the name of urban renewal. ((CBC Archives))

Mayor Peter Kelly said he will apologize on behalf of the Halifax Regional Municipality and council at an event on Wednesday.

He'll also reveal details of a settlement with the Africville Genealogy Society to "commemorate the past and take positive steps for the future."

Council voted in favour of the agreement at its weekly meeting Tuesday evening.

Africville sat on the northern part of the Halifax peninsula, along the shores of the Bedford Basin, for more than a century. It was neglected by the city, then bulldozed in the 1960s.

Forty years later, there's a compensation package designed to resolve the long-running dispute with evicted residents and their descendants.

'We've moving forward'

"There's a light at the end of the tunnel," said Brenda Steed-Ross, who was kicked out of Africville with her parents and infant daughter when she was 18. "We're moving forward, not backward. That's the way I feel."

The society accepted the offer from the municipality on Saturday. Steed-Ross, one of the founding members of the society, wouldn't reveal the details of the offer. According to one published report, it includes a $3-million payout and about one hectare of municipal land. There is no money for individuals or families.

On Sunday, the federal government announced $250,000 for the Africville Heritage Trust, which will help design a museum and a replica of the community's church.

Steed-Ross remembers her old community fondly, but believes it's time to look forward.

'Try to make it better'

"It's good memories that are gone," she said. "We think about it and, yes, it'll always be a loss there and we'll feel that loss, and mainly because our children will never experience that. But you can't dwell on it. You have to try to make it better now for the future."

Africville's roots went back to the 1830s, when former American slaves and other black people settled in the area. Homeowners paid city taxes, but they didn't get running water or sewage facilities. The community became run-down over the decades, and the city finally bulldozed it in the name of urban renewal.

Part of the old Africville site, declared a national historic site in 2002, is now  an off-leash dog park. The rest of the land was used to build the approaches to the A. Murray MacKay Bridge.