Archeologists push to preserve Halifax's rich history above and below ground
It's Canada’s oldest planned British municipality, but much of Halifax’s history lies right below our feet, yet to be uncovered.
That’s why archeologists like David Jones are calling on the city to create a broader plan to prevent potentially significant sites from being disturbed by development.
“You don’t just see it when you see a historical plaque, or go up to Citadel Hill, it’s underneath you. Not only hundreds of years of buried history, but thousands,” said Jones.
Jones wants the city to establish what is known as an archeological master plan, which would identify areas of special significance – something already done in some cities in Ontario and Quebec.
“Instead of being reactionary, seeing something come up in a development or a construction site, this way we can plan for it, we can mitigate it, we can take care of it, we can record it, preserve it and enjoy our history,” said Jones.
Jones says recent work being done at Horseshoe Island Park in Halifax is a prime example of when this plan would come into play. The developer working at the park did apply to the province for a permit to have an archeologist assess and monitor the site.
“A heritage research permit is obviously required when going into sites that are known to have archeological materials,” said Nova Scotia Minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage Leo Glavine.
Archeologists say the problem is not all archeological sites have been identified.
“It’s important that we acknowledge these places, memorialize them and let people know what the history is that’s right underfoot,” said Saint Mary’s University archeology professor, Jonathan Fowler.
Fowler recently mapped out an area in downtown Halifax where he is determined about 20,000 people are buried in an area currently unmarked.
"So, rather than getting a surprise partway through a development, you would know well in advance, and you can either move away from part of that area if it’s sensitive, or do some kind of archeological mitigation,” said Fowler.
The City of Halifax says it does have a map meant to inform developers and property owners of areas of potential archeological significance, and it's planning to do more.
“The municipality is intending to create additional policies surrounding the identifications and protection or important archeological sites,” said Brynn Langille, Halifax city spokesperson.
Archeologists like Jones hope those policies and plans come soon before any buried history is inadvertently lost.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Heidi Petracek