Black in Halifax: Advocate says lack of public housing improvements amounts to segregation
As Halifax grows and develops, proper housing for Black residents has fallen by the wayside, says Quentrel Provo.
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The numbers matter, but there’s so much more.
African Nova Scotians are the most populous racially visible group in Nova Scotia. About 23,000 Black Canadians call Nova Scotia home, about a fifth of Canada’s Black population. According to the 2011 census, they represented 44 per cent of the racially visible population in the province.
You can start to see a story forming through the numbers. As of 2011, about 80 per cent of African Nova Scotians reported being born in the province — representing generations of families and communities. In Halifax, Black people represented 3.6 per cent of its population — thousands of people call communities in Dartmouth, the north end of Halifax, and North and East Preston home.
Halifax is building more than ever. In 2016, the city issued permits for 1,040 residential units. In 2011, it was only 96. The city’s per capita population growth in 2016 outpaced Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto.
But, in 2011, Black people had a higher unemployment rate in Nova Scotia (14.5 per cent), much lower average incomes — for example, $29,837 for Black men, compared to $42,545 for white men — and less likely to have postsecondary education.
Some, including anti-violence advocate Quentrel Provo, have argued that the concentrations of people in public housing, for example, amounts to segregation.
The city has been failing to create better housing for Black Haligonians while the city continues to grow, says Provo. He cited Mulgrave Park, how the community had their harbour views taken away by the Halifax Shipyard, and Uniacke Square, where condo building may change the neighbourhood. Again.
“Lord forbid it eventually pushes those people out, to build more condos because they already went through that whole thing with Africville,” he said, citing the historic Black neighbourhood that had faced generations of neglect — and, eventually, where Black people were displaced to make way for industry.
The issue of segregation will be informing an issue that has shaped Halifax now more than most: Street checks. The most startling stat is that Black people are three times as likely to be stopped and questioned by Halifax police than white people.
Scot Wortley, a University of Toronto professor who is working with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission to study street checks, has heard many stories from locals about harassment and discrimination.
“A healthy level of cynicism exists within the Black community after many years, decades, of complaints about this issue and their perception that there’s been relatively little meaningful change,” said Wortley, who hopes that stat doesn’t skew local opinion on street checks.
But, with a mid-to-late 2018 delivery, Wortley wants his report to cause effective policy change.
Until that day, the numbers speak for themselves.
This story is part of Metro's ongoing Black in Halifax series. Let us know your thoughts on the series, and share your own stories using the hashtag #HalifaxWhileBlack with tweets, Instagram posts and Facebook comments. We may just share it in a future edition.