The empty lot in North Preston, N.S., has been in the hands of Elaine Cain’s family for many years, a connection that stirs in her a sentimental bond with the piece of land.
But despite the fact her family has long paid property taxes on it, they have never held the deed.
On Wednesday, Cain welcomed as a “bright day” an announcement by the Nova Scotia government that it will provide funding to help people in five historically black communities gain legal ownership over land they’ve claimed as theirs for generations.
“I think it will be great because this is what we have been looking for,” she said in an interview. “It will give us … a boost, actually, to do whatever it is that we have or plan to do. I’m confident that they’ll help me.”
The province said it will spend $2.7 million over two years to help residents obtain legal title to land in the communities of North Preston, East Preston and Cherry Brook in the Halifax Regional Municipality, and in Lincolnville and Sunnyville in Guysborough County.
No deeds to black settlers
The problem can be traced back two centuries, when the government gave plots of land to Black Loyalists for their support during the American Revolutionary War and to Black Refugees, former slaves who sought refuge after the War of 1812. The government, however, did not give deeds, which meant those who settled never officially owned the land they lived on.
The repercussions today are that, without clear title, residents cannot sell their property or legally pass it down to other relatives. The province says that out of the 1,620 total land parcels in Cherry Brook, East Preston and North Preston, for instance, about a third are without clear title.
Cain said she’s had her property surveyed, but because of a dispute with some family members, she can’t get the deed. She said she needs…