N.S. land title claims ‘going nowhere,’ advocacy group claims
A system designed to streamline land title claims for dozens of African Nova Scotia families seems to have become even more complicated.
In September 2017, the Nova Scotia government announced $2.7 million will help establish claims for land titles in the province. But groups like the North Preston Land Recovery Initiative have been working on this issue for years with no success.
Neville Provo and his son Corvell Beals have title to their homes. Now, they’re helping others receive the same.
"One of our missions is to get each individual house their own individual deed," Beals says.
Government claims its goal is the same, but the work has been slow-moving. A surveyor and surveyor technicians have been hired, but other key positions have still not been filled.
"We will be able to probably get more into it and delve more into it when we have these other people in place – the community navigators – because they're going to be playing a key role of going out and explaining the process and helping people navigate this complicated system," says African Nova Scotian Affairs Minister Tony Ince.
That complicated system is a major sticking points for people trying to get title. The government has not hired those community navigators, leaving some residents frustrated and still uncertain about what to do.
"If you don't have proper titleship to your house, technically you can't sell it,” says Beals. “Some of the elderly people in the community that would qualify for certain grants, they can't get those certain grants."
Beals says one of the biggest issues facing families without title is that there are several buildings on one plot of land, but only one person can have title.
"From an application perspective, I would like to see more understanding of the dynamics of the community," he says.
Lawyer Angela Simmonds has been working on title claims since 2014. Her work recently helped a North Preston family receive title to their land after a nearly two-decade-long battle.
"The largest issue in the community, and I would say with any marginalized community, is that there is a mistrust with government or policies and procedures," Simmonds says.
That mistrust is something Tony Ince says he's experienced at recent community meetings.
"There's still a bit of ambivalence, still not sure their concerns are going to be addressed,” Ince says. “But I can assure them that for the first time they've got a government with multiple departments working on this."
Those departments include the Departments of Justice, Natural Resources, African Nova Scotian Affairs and Communities Culture and Heritage. Dalhousie Legal Aid and the Halifax Regional Municipality are also involved.
The provincial government hopes involving more departments and hiring people will help speed up the process. But Beals and Provo say the process isn’t moving fast enough.
"Some people died fighting for their titleship to their houses. They didn't live to see it happen," says Beals.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Priya Sam.