Nova Scotia

Bursting at the seams, Eskasoni gets a much needed expansion

The Eskasoni First Nation just grew by 86.5 hectares, and the band says it couldn't have come a moment too soon. The community's population is booming and the land is needed for a new high school and a long-term care facility.

2 neighbouring properties added to reserve with plans for new high school and long-term care facility

Eskasoni Chief Leroy Denny says the community is concerned about the incident with young students, but he is waiting for the results of the RCMP investigation. (Steve Sutherland/CBC)

The Eskasoni First Nation just grew by 86.5 hectares, and the band says it couldn't have come a moment too soon.

Two landowners in neighbouring Castle Bay, N.S., sold their properties to Eskasoni a couple of years ago.

The federal government confirmed late last month that the lands have now been added to the reserve.

Chief Leroy Denny said the community's population is booming and the land is needed for a new high school and a long-term care facility.

"We're very very grateful and I'm very excited with this, because we were getting worried about putting the school and the long-term care facility [elsewhere]," he said.

Eskasoni First Nation has grown by 86.5 hectares after the federal government added two properties to the reserve from the neighbouring community of Castle Bay (outlined in red). (Google)

If the properties hadn't become available, the developments would have been located outside the community, Denny said.

"They would have been owned by Eskasoni, but they wouldn't have been on reserve, but now it's going to be on reserve so we can go on with this project," he said.

"This is a really big deal for us, and a sigh of relief that we're able to focus on these projects without worrying about them having land."

Running out of room

The chief said it has been getting increasingly difficult to provide housing for the reserve's population, which is now over 4,500.

"The majority of our people are young people and we've been developing really quickly, and we've developed over 100 houses now and we're running out of space," Denny said.

However, he said, the mountainous terrain around the community is limiting.

"Even though we have lots of land, it's really difficult to develop over there, so we were running out of space," said Denny.

How the land was acquired

The private land came in two parcels on the Castle Bay side.

Alexander MacDonald, 94, owned the larger piece and sold it to Eskasoni several years ago.

He was born in Glace Bay in 1925, but his father was killed working on the railroad when he was 15 months old, so his mother moved the family out to a relative's property in the country.

MacDonald lives in Sydney now, and said it was time to move into the city, because his old neighbours died or moved away.

Alexander MacDonald, 94, and his wife Kay, 76, sold their property in Castle Bay and moved to the city to be closer to family and friends. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

"It wasn't a good place to live, because we were 1,000 feet from the highway and I decided long ago that I wouldn't spend my last days there because there was nobody around, and then you're far from the hospital, too, in case you're sick," MacDonald said.

"The country can be a lonely place, but so can New York City if you don't know anybody."

MacDonald said he's happy the reserve can use the land, and he can live closer to family and friends.

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About the Author

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years. He has spent the last 16 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.