A Black man and three women of colour stand next to a blue and white sign that says Land Titles Initiative a project to support land clarification within designated areas.
Curtis Whiley, manager for the Land Titles Initiative, left, community navigators Holly Adams, Amel Taisier, and Karalee Oliver, and Lindsay Visser, senior policy analyst, at a recent meeting for the Land Titles Initiative. Photo: Matthew Byard

Community consultations between the provincial Land Titles Initiative (LTI) and Black Nova Scotians will continue in communities across the province this week. 

The consultations are seeking input from members of the communities on proposed changes to the Land Titles Clarification Act (LTCA) that would expand the current boundaries that cut through the outer edges of the various communities. That would make some Black residents eligible to seek services and fee waivers from LTI when seeking clear title and land ownership. 

Members of the LTI, which was first announced in 2017, are hosting a meeting Tuesday at 6pm at the East Preston Recreation Centre. The LTI held community meetings last week in Cherry Brook and North Preston.  

“I just think it’s important we are present in the communities so we can educate folks on the Land Titles Initiative, the benefits of having clear title, and how to gain access to that clear title so we can create that generational wealth for our communities and be able to pass that down for the generations to come,” said Karalee Oliver, a LTI community navigator, after Wednesday’s meeting at the North Preston Recreation Centre. 

“These meetings are a way for us to get back out into the community. Doing community consultations involves the community in changes that are coming. We don’t often see that with changes within government, where the community gets consulted.”  

A Black man stands in front of a screen showing a map to an audience of people. Besides the screen is a blue and white banner that says Land Titles Initiative
Curtis Whiley making a presentation at the Land Titles Initiative consultation. Photo: Matthew Byard

LTI manager Curtis Whiley said it is believed that the initial boundaries on the map were drawn arbitrarily. 

“And so we have clients who are outside of the lines and we can’t serve them even though they belong to whatever community ⁠— let it be Sunnyville. You live in Sunnyville but because you’re not within this line on a map we can’t serve you,” said Whiley in an interview with the Examiner. 

“And over time, the communities have sprawled outside of those lines or the municipal boundaries for those communities have changed. So, what the community identifies as being their community, geographically, is different from what these maps look like.” 

In addition to the proposed boundry expansion, LTI members are informing Black community members of additional changes within the LTI. 

A map of North Preston and area showing plots of land.

The Initiative itself has been transferred from the Department of Natural Resources to the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives so as to reduce the number of government departments involved. 

Legal duties within LTI are currently being transferred from two provincial legal aid lawyers to three of the largest private law firms in Atlantic Canada ⁠— BoyneClarke, Stewart McKelvey, and Cox & Palmer. LTI clients are still being made aware of the transition process, which the LTI group said is ongoing until Dec. 31, 2022. 

Surveyor services are also being transferred from the provincial Department of Lands and Forestry (currently the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables) to local firms. This will speed up the process of assessing land title claims. 

There are about 20 clients on a waitlist and five clients actively receiving land surveys. 

“We do surveying for files that require it, but the majority of files don’t require it,” Whiley said. “And if you already have a deed or something you’re not going to need to have a survey done.”

The LTI group will be in Guysborough Wednesday for a meeting at the Sunnyville Community Hall at 4pm. A virtual session is also scheduled for Wednesday at 6pm with Black residents gathered at Lincolnville Community Centre in Lincolnville.

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Matthew Byard writes news, profiles, and stories of the Black Nova Scotia community. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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