There has been a new development in an ongoing legal battle between the City of Halifax and about 300 former residents of Africville, N.S. seeking compensation for land that was expropriated 45 years ago.

“The city stated that they were taking the land for urban renewal and not expropriating the land, but in the end, that’s exactly what they did,” says former resident Tony Smith.

In the late 1960s, residents were evicted from their homes and the village was bulldozed to make way for the A. Murray MacKay Bridge.

Some say they were paid to move out of Africville, while others say they were forced, and told they had no rights to compensation. They say no one received fair market value for their land.

The city eventually apologized for the treatment of Africville residents and the church that was once the centre of their community was rebuilt, but former residents say that simply isn’t enough.

“That was not compensation for the families that actually lost their land and their property, their homes and businesses,” says Smith.

The former residents have filed a notice of motion to amend a lawsuit from 1996 that the city says is already mostly settled.

The motion, which still has to be decided upon by a judge, is asking the courts to allow them to amend the original action.

Arguments on the motion, which the city will be contesting, will take place on Jan. 21.

Those involved in the case say they are confident it will be settled within two years. If they win, the payments could amount to tens of millions of dollars.

Lawyers representing the residents say seizure of the land wasn’t done according to the rules. The claim is for today’s fair market value of much of the land bordering the Bedford Basin.

“Ultimately, that would be up to real estate appraisers to determine, first of all, the value in the late 60s and bring that amount forward with the statutory interest,” says lawyer Robert Pineo.

The claimants say the potential lawsuit is about more than just compensation.

“Essentially, for two or three generations, this community has suffered financially and socially, and financial compensation would be able to put them whole again,” says Pineo.

The case echoes that of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children lawsuit launched against the province. In July, a judge approved a $29-million settlement between the Nova Scotia government and alleged survivors of abuse at the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children, ending a nearly 15-year legal battle.

The class-action lawsuit was the first of its kind in the province and judges had to almost invent procedural rules as the case proceeded. If the motions sought by the Africville lawyers are accepted, there would have to be a separate certification hearing to seek a class-action lawsuit.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Ron Shaw