Nova Scotia

North Preston residents still waiting for land title fix

North Preston community members say they've seen no action from government despite a promise three months ago to fix land title issues.

Community members are frustrated by the lack of action from the province

Dwight Adams of the North Preston Land Recovery Initiative says community members haven't heard from Nova Scotia's government about fixing the problem. (NSCC)

North Preston community members say they've seen no action from government despite a promise three months ago to fix land title issues.

About one-third of homeowners in North Preston don't have clear titles to land their families have been living on for generations.

'They keep pushing it back'

In February, Natural Resources Minister Lloyd Hines said a plan was in the works to address the issue "pretty immediately." 

But North Preston Land Recovery Initiative members say they haven't heard a thing.

"They know the importance of it. They know what we've been up against for numerous years — and it's quite interesting that they keep pushing it back and pushing it back when the ability to make this happen quickly is pretty much in their hands, and it's very doable," member Dwight Adams said. 

"They're not worried about it too much."

The department's involvement "makes or breaks" their chances of moving forward, he said.

Plots of land were given to black loyalists and refugees by the Nova Scotia government in the early 1800s.

Years later when some residents went to sell their property or pass it down, they were told they didn't have clear title to that land.

Many people who live in North Preston do not have deeds to their properties. (CBC)

No help provided

In March, the department announced it would be hiring a law student to assist homeowners to gain clear titles to their land. The student was expected to start working in April.

"Nobody has been hired yet," member Angela Simmonds said.

She's a Dalhousie University law student, has close ties with the community and is a member of the Land Recovery Initiative.

Simmonds says she applied for the position, which she views as essential.

"It's only going to be successful if we're able to collaborate and speak candidly about the issues in the community — and the systemic racism that has continued to happened with other agencies," she said.

The department has not responded to CBC's questions about the job.

Angela Simmonds (third from left) speaks with North Preston Land Recovery Initative members. (NSCC)

More come forward

The land title issue came to light through a journalism project by Nova Scotia Community College students.

Since then, other historic black Nova Scotian communities have come forward dealing with the same problem.

"South Shore area, Windsor area, Beechville, Lake Loon, Cherry Brook, East Preston — so all the surrounding areas within the black communities in Nova Scotia — have already started reaching out and asking, 'How did you guys get this started?'" Adams said.

"My answer to them was, "You're going to have to do the same thing we're doing here in North Preston."

Black landowners around Nova Scotia have come forward to say they don't have proper land titles. (Google Street View)

Adams said he fears his community could be wiped out because of depopulation if the Department of Natural Resources doesn't "step up to the plate."

"Our seniors are dying, they're going. The younger people in the next generation, they're trying to hold onto the bits and pieces that are left in the community," he said.