News / Halifax

Halifax ignored rules on Africville, lawyer says as 1960s razing heads to court

HALIFAX — The contentious 1960s-era decision that led the City of Halifax to raze a black community will be debated anew this week in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

Former residents of Africville are seeking compensation through a class action brought by former resident Nelson Carvery. Two days of hearings have been set aside, starting Wednesday, as lawyers seek to have the claim certified.

Blacks first settled in Africville on the southern shore of the Bedford Basin around the mid-1800s, but it was demolished in the 1960s in the name of urban renewal.

In a brief filed with the court, lawyer Robert Pineo says Halifax did not follow its own rules under the city's charter.

"The defendant (failed) to perfect the purported expropriation of Africville in the 1960s by failing to fully compensate land rights and interests, failing to provide notice of the purported expropriation to landowners, and failing to apprise them of their rights in the process, all contrary to the then in-force expropriation provisions of the Halifax City Charter," the document states.

In 2010, the city issued a public apology and $3 million to rebuild the Africville church, among other things, but the settlement did not include personal compensation.

The suit seeks liability on the part of the City of Halifax, damages and costs.

The document doesn't put a number on the possible number of people in the lawsuit, but says it would include all former residents who were removed between 1962 and 1970, or their estates, and who have not opted out of the suit or otherwise had their claims dismissed or discontinued.

"The facts of this matter, and in particular the communal nature of the property rights expropriated, make individual pursuit of claims unfeasible, and there are no alternative mechanisms by which the claims can be pursued. Proceeding as a class is therefore the most appropriate, and realistically the only means by which the proposed class members may have access to justice," the document reads.

Pineo has previously said a class action could involve 300 people.

In its brief, the city says a class proceeding would not result in a fair or efficient resolution.

"The class proposed by the plaintiff is overly broad, vague, and not rationally connected with the cause of action and the common issues. The class is defined by residency in Africville as opposed to sharing the cause of action. The cause of action pled is the alleged failure to perfect the expropriation of Africville. This requires an ownership or interest in the Africville lands at the time of expropriation, yet the proposed class makes no such requirement of its members," the city's brief states.

The city requests that the motion for certification as a class proceeding be dismissed.

— By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton.

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