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Halifax waives property taxes owed by residents of historically Black community

A North Preston sign is shown on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan A North Preston sign is shown on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

The Halifax region has waived back taxes owed by three property owners in North Preston, a predominantly African Nova Scotian community where Black settlers weren't given clear title to their land until recently.

In the 1800s, Nova Scotia granted land to both white and Black Loyalists, but only white settlers were given clear land titles, leading to persistent confusion and legal wrangling for the descendants of Black settlers.

The double standard limited their ability to obtain mortgages, access housing grants or sell their homes.

In September 2017, the provincial government committed $2.7 million over two years to help African Nova Scotian residents obtain legal title to land in five of the province's historically Black communities.

At the time, the minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs, Tony Ince, said the government had to take action to deal with the systemic discrimination faced by Black settlers and their descendants.

Since then, the province has been working through hundreds of claims from residents in North Preston, East Preston, Cherry Brook/Lake Loon, Lincolnville and Sunnyville.

In March 2021, the province announced a $3-million compensation fund to help speed up the processing of applications under the Land Titles Initiative. And two commissioners were hired to settle disputes.

"Nova Scotia has a long, painful history of systemic anti-Black racism," Ince said at the time. "We must replace legal barriers with solutions to help create a more just and inclusive province."

On Tuesday, Halifax regional council discharged a total of $57,000 in property taxes owed by three property owners in North Preston, which is about 20 kilometres northeast of Halifax.

One resident owed $42,732 in interest and back taxes, dating back to 1995. The second owed $2,221 going back to 2015, and the third owed $2,221 going back to 2005. All three received a certificate of claim and became the registered owners of their properties in 2020.

By March of 2021, the province had received 527 applications under the Land Titles Initiative. It has estimated there are 850 eligible parcels of land.

The government has said there are as many as 45 other African Nova Scotian communities where land ownership is an issue. That means there are likely thousands of claims outstanding.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 4, 2023.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page. Top Stories

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