It is dismaying that minorities in Nova Scotia have to continue fighting for basic human rights.
On September 25, Centre La Picasse was the site for a forum on effective representation hosted by a commission tasked with consulting Acadians, Francophones and African Nova Scotians.
Approximately 20 residents attended the meeting in Petit de Grat. Many expressed frustration at the loss of protected ridings.
On January 24, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal concluded a 2012 change to Nova Scotia electoral boundaries violated Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by altering of the electoral districts of Clare, Argyle and Richmond.
The chair of the commission said it was clear those at the meeting want the riding restored and they want the boundaries commission to visit Isle Madame when it tours the province next year. The commission will put together a report and offer recommendations for an Electoral Boundaries Commission, which the government is set to establish before the end of January, 2018.
This took place as the provincial government announced an investment of around about $2.7 million, over two years, to help African Nova Scotians residents gain clear title to their land.
The money will go toward assisting residents in places like Lincolnville and Sunnyville with legal fees and costs related to estate administration and migration, and new full-time positions dedicated to the land title clarification areas.
Some of the initiatives provided by the funding include hiring two community liaison officers to help residents go through the process of obtaining clear title; hiring surveyors and survey technicians; and having the Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission provide administrative support and support for clarifying land ownership though the Land Titles Clarifications Act, estate administration through the Probate Act and Intestate Succession Act, and migration under the Land Registration Act.
The local MLA said this goes back to Loyalist African Nova Scotians who came to the area following the American Revolution because they were promised property, but those people were never given deeds to those lands and their ancestors were unable to prove ownership.
The local municipal councillor said residents have been trying to establish clear land titles since the 1960s. There are plans for a series of meetings in African Nova Scotian communities across the province to explain what this funding entails.
It is inexcusable that these minority groups have to continue fighting for basic rights.
In the case of Acadians, it is about political representation guaranteed in the charter. The provincial government of the time was wrong to ignore these rights by arbitrarily and undemocratically gerrymandering ridings with no consultation.
For African Nova Scotians, it is about legally owning land they have inhabited for three centuries. Their service to the British Crown was rewarded with land and no title, and that injustice has to be righted.
Progress has been made in Nova Scotia, but these are just two examples that there is much work left undone.