Nova Scotia

Some residents of historically black communities lack clear title to land

Lacking a clear title to land isn't just a problem in North Preston. The province's barristers' association says people in many historically black communities have the same problem.

'Let’s not be so lawyer like, let’s be a little more practical here,' says lawyer Darrel Pink

Many people were not given written, legal documentation stating that their family owns the land they've lived on for generations. (Google Maps)

Some Nova Scotians who live in historically black communities across the province don't legally own the land they've lived on for generations, according the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society. 

"The circumstances in which the people moved to [East and North Preston] in the 18th century apply to Beechville on the Halifax side, to Birchtown in Shelburne, to historic black communities in every part of the province," Darrel Pink, the executive director of the barristers society, told CBC Radio's Information Morning.

Darrel Pink, the executive director of the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society. (Nova Scotia Barristers' Society)

The problem is many people were not given written, legal documentation stating that their family owns the land they've lived on for generations, said Pink. Thus, they don't legally own the land on which their family has lived for 200 years, on which they've been paying taxes.

"This doesn't just relate to Prestons, this is around the province," said Pink.

A community group called the North Preston Land Recovery Initiative said about one-third of the community's properties are not deeded to its residents. 

Hard to prove ownership

In many cases it will be hard to find independent, third-party evidence to prove that a family has lived on a section of land for a couple of generations.

"Let's not be so lawyer like, let's be a little more practical here and find solutions that will ultimately do what everyone knows needs to be done," said Pink.    

He suggests the province relax its regulations in these cases so that family members can present evidence that proves they have lived on a property for years. 

Pink expects that later this week the provincial government may release how it will modify its standards for proving ownership.

Once the barristers' society has that information it can start helping people finally get ownership of their land. The society will start by setting up a pilot project over the next several months. 

"There's some community education that needs to be done so we can help people understand the nature of the evidence they need to bring forward. We have a number of lawyers on a pro-bono basis who are willing to assist with these," said Pink. 

The province's Department of Natural Resources declined to comment on the story, but said it may release more information later in the week.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?