The Society

Africville receives long-awaited apology,

settlement

Edmonton Journal/Canwest | February 24, 2010

PhotoA bird's eye view of Africville, showing its location on Bedford Basin, with north end Halifax and the Narrows in the background. Photograph by: Handout, Bob Brooks' Photographic Portrait of Africville in the 1960sPhotograph by: Handout, Bob Brooks' Photographic Portrait of Africville in the 1960s

 

Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly apologized Wednesday for the 'terrible upheaval'. experienced by the former residents of Africville '” an all-black Halifax community torn down in the 1960s to make way for the construction of a bridge '” in an attempt to quell 'lingering feelings of hurt and loss.'.

'On behalf of the Halifax Regional Municipality, I apologize to the former Africville residents and their descendants for what they have endured for almost 50 years, ever since the loss of their community that had stood on the shores of Bedford Basin for more than 150 years,'. Kelly said in an official apology. 'You lost your houses, your church, all of the places where you gathered with family and friends to mark the milestones of your lives.

'For all that, we apologize.'

The apology is accompanied by a settlement package that includes $3 million in compensation and a 2.5-acre parcel of municipal land to be given to the Africville Genealogy Society, which has spearheaded apology efforts since the 1990s. No compensation for individual families will be made.

'It's a little surreal for us, right now. It's been such a long struggle to get to where we are today but we are extremely happy, extremely pleased that we will be able to move on,'. society president Irvine Carvery said on Wednesday. 'The dark chapter in the history of this city will finally be closed and the new beginning for Africville begins today.'.

Sorry wasn't enough for all former Africville residents, however. Some are upset that the settlement doesn't include individual compensation.

'Once your heart is broken, how can it be solved with someone saying they're sorry? That don't solve people's hearts,'. said former resident Speedy Vyers.

Eddie Carvery said the fight has just started.

'Anyone who agrees with me can come out to Africville and fight for our individual compensation. We will fight for a public inquiry. Thank you for the apology. Accepted. Two more to go. Private compensation and a public inquiry.'.

The Halifax Regional Council voted in favour of the package Tuesday night at a weekly council meeting.

Carvery said the funding will be used to build a replica of Seaview United Baptist Church, razed in the middle of the night during the municipality's 'urban renewal'. efforts more than four decades ago. That will be followed by further development of the area '” currently home to a national historic site in the form of Seaview Memorial Park, slated to be renamed '” that will promote tourism through an interpretive centre.

The federal government chipped in $250,000 in funding Sunday for the upfront design and consulting work.

Africville was located on the northern tip of the Halifax peninsula, and was ordered destroyed in the 1960s to allow Halifax to move forward on the A. Murray MacKay suspension bridge, which links Halifax and Dartmouth, as well as other harbour developments.

Nearly 100 black families '” the descendants of former slaves from American and British colonies who first settled in the region during the early 1800s '” were evicted and relocated as a result.

According to the Africville Genealogy Society, those with deeds to homes in Africville '” described as 'blighted housing'. by the city council of the day '” received market value for their property, while those without papers received a $500 payment.

'We realize that words cannot undo what has been done but we are profoundly sorry and apologize to each and every one of you,'. Kelly said. 'Our history cannot be rewritten, but thankfully, the future is a blank page and starting today we hold the pen with which we can write a shared tomorrow.'.

Many of the former residents and their families gather at the site each year during an 'annual pilgrimage'. to commemorate the community, said Carvery, who spent the first 13 years of his life in Africville.

'I go back out to the site and I still feel the houses, I still feel the people. My recollections of Africville are very vivid and sustaining,'. he said. 'We're going to move ahead ... A year from now, the church will be up and we will be celebrating.

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The Africville Genealogy Society gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Department of Canadian Heritage for this project.
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