1. Lucasville

On Wednesday, Tim reported on the re-establishment of the boundaries of Lucasville, a historic community settled by Black Refugees. As noted in this CBC story:

According to the report, the proposed boundary would mean about 500 homes would need to change their address from the community of Hammonds Plains to Lucasville. Those affected will receive a letter informing them of the change.

“I completely understand if they’re feeling inconvenienced and feeling put out by this recommendation. But at the same time, I think it’s extremely important that we recognize the historical boundaries of this community,” said Blackburn.

As it turned out in the Council meeting, more than feeling “inconvenienced and put out,” how residents felt was “extremely racist.” As Tim reports:

Long story short, some residents, especially in the Waterstone Subdivision, didn’t want to be associated with the historically Black community of Lucasville but instead with the largely white Hammonds Plains community. But staff and historic researchers pored over old maps and even property deeds that describe the Waterston parcels as being in Lucasville, and so determined that it would be in Lucasville today.

You know what’s coming… as councillor Lisa Blackburn told it, some Waterstone residents sent nasty emails full of racist attacks to her. Other councillors said they too had received the emails.

Jacob Boon elaborated on some of the racist commentary emailed by white residents:

How odd.  I thought white Halifax residents were near-fanatic devotees of history. After all, isn’t that why we can’t do anything about the Cornwallis statue? Opposition to removing Cornwallis, we are told, has nothing to do with racism or colonialism, and simply with the principle of not “rewriting history.” One would think white residents would therefore be delighted by this opportunity to engage in historical preservation!

Council members have refused to share the text of the emails they received, let alone the names of the residents who felt so comfortable sending “racial epithets” to councillors. If this is the kind of material these people send to white councillors, what do we imagine they might be capable of doing to Black homes and people?

I wonder if this were, say, Muslims sending threatening emails if people would be so cavalier about the potential violence and danger to their neighbours.

Do we forget that “Sieg Heil” and swastikas were spray-painted on election signs in North Preston only this spring? Or the cross-burning in 2010? These attacks are not an artifact of the distant past. Yet we consistently treat racist emails, racial slurs, and violent comments by white people as something just normal and expected.

Sure, people might shake their heads and feel disappointed that such sentiments exist, but they aren’t really taken seriously as a danger to anyone. These comments fill online articles about race, flood Twitter, are all over social media and in the inboxes of Black and Indigenous public figures, yet the fantasy remains that this kind of racism is shared only by a few extremists.

When Mi’kmaq women peacefully protested the Cornwallis statue, Mayor Savage publicly cautioned the protestors and warned them that violence would not be tolerated:

Although Savage said the city will not stand in the way of “legitimate public protest,” he said the city will not “condone violent action in the place of real dialogue.”

Where are the public warnings to Waterstone residents? Where are the comments calling them “hotheads on the warpath” or painting them as a danger to civil society or as an impediment to dialogue? Where are the appeals to moderate members of the white community to condemn this behaviour?

Isabel Knockwood leads prayers in front of the Cornwallis statue. Photo: Halifax Examiner

The very reason why these white residents feel that they can send these kind of emails to councillors is that there are no consequences for this behaviour. Their names will be kept anonymous. They won’t be exposed in their workplace or to their community. They won’t be shamed and publicly ridiculed the way women who speak out about racism are. They won’t have endless editorials about their “civility” published or have their language condemned.

They will be protected because, after all, it would be terrible if they faced any backlash as a result of their own behaviour. Meanwhile, Black residents will just have to live in fear not knowing who among their neighbours is a vicious racist who may one day do them harm.

The reality is that, despite the continual outrage suggesting that calling people racist is worse than being racist, racism is treated as completely normal and an expected side-effect. And it is this tolerance and acceptance of white people sending racist comments that means there is no motivation to stop. Why wouldn’t white people send racial slurs to a city councillor? Why not leave vicious comments on a news article? What is going to happen to them if they do?

If someone leaves a “suspicious package” somewhere, despite the unlikeliness of this actually being a bomb, the police are immediately mobilized, the news breathlessly reports, and we are reminded of the possible dangers from terrorism that we face. Yet the far more credible threat of white violence and the danger it poses for Black communities, something that has long historical evidence, is treated as negligible.

Image from

As Vicky Mochama observed, whiteness is continually upheld and protected in Canada. The media withheld the name of the white woman demanding a white doctor and blurred her face, on the premise that they needed to protect her son. Of course, no such considerations exist for Black victims of violence, who have their criminal records dredged up and published. No such protections exist for innocent Indigenous women peacefully protesting. Muslim women who post about white fragility face discipline from universities and are exposed to violent rape and death threats.

YouTube video

Yet Waterstone residents will wake up today having faced no consequences and experienced no sanctions. Not repeating what those emails said doesn’t protect Black people. Burying the extent of racism does not keep Black people safe. What it preserves is the fiction that racism is not widespread and severe. It preserves the myth that this kind of thing doesn’t happen in Canada, despite hundreds of years of white violence towards Black communities in this province. It allows white people to not hold their fellow white people accountable, and it allows white violence to be normalized.

If we are serious about “ending racism,” then we need to stop making it comfortable for racists. Right now, the only people who regularly face any backlash are those who speak out against racism. As long as that remains the case, we cannot pretend to be shocked when nooses are hung on doors, effigies are lynched in workplaces, crosses are burned, racist graffiti is spray painted, or whatever other “less civilized” expressions of racism emerge. And then, there will be mass professions that nobody ever thought such things existed in our communities, and all the while your neighbour is busy sending another email laced with racial slurs.

2. A historical note

Interestingly, white residents’ backlash to moving into a Black community and then being mad that their property values will decrease mirrors much of the historical reaction to the Black refugees.

George Elliott Clarke’s review of Harvey Amani Whitfield’s history Blacks on the Border: The Black Refugees in British North America, 1815-1860 summarizes the historical smear campaign.

His work serves an ongoing effort to overturn the propaganda that has besmirched the reputations of the black refugees — and, by extension, all African-NovaScotians (or Africadians) right down to the present. That mythology holds that the black refugees had few skills, would not farm or work, and were utterly illiterate, and so “worthless,” in effect, that they were only good for slavery and should be shipped to the U.S. south, or to Trinidad, or to Sierra Leone, as soon as funds could be raised for their transport.

No less a personage than Thomas Chandler Haliburton, colonial Nova Scotia’s great author, made like arguments in Sam Slick sketches, in political statement, and in his History of Nova Scotia, where he holds that the ex-slaves “sighed for the roof of their master, and the pastimes and amusements they left behind.”

In the 1970s, one scholar held that the black refugees were so destitute that they didn’t even possess a heritage of song and music. Other scholars felt that, once the “cream” of the black Loyalists shipped to Sierra Leone in 1792, the Africadian communities, “old” and “new,” were left leaderless and felt listless, and that the refugee blacks, arriving poor and hungry and cold, only added to the common woe.

One of the controversial Jefferys’ sketches
From Lorne Pierce, (ed.) Sam Slick in pictures: the best of the humor of T. C. Haliburton
(Ryerson Press, 1956).
Image and commentary from

For those interested, Whitfield’s essay “‘We Can Do As We Like Here’: An Analysis of Self Assertion and Agency Among Black Refugees in Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1813-1821” can be read here. Whitfield’s essay perhaps offers some historical perspective on why white people might feel entitled to move into a Black neighbourhood and then complain bitterly about any associations with Blackness.

Another reason why the emails to council should be made available is because they provide an important contemporary commentary on the documented historical responses to Black settlement. It would be interesting to see how closely the current racist backlash echoes arguments made at the time of refugee influx.

Two hundred years later, white residents are upholding the same historical narratives about shiftless Blacks. Similar efforts by white communities to disassociate themselves from Black people have been ongoing in the city:

Back in the 1980s, residents of Gottingen north of Young Street petitioned to have their street renamed to the meaningless Novalea Drive just so no one would confuse their fine middle-class neighbourhoods with the public-housing-social-service-drug-addled-boarded-up-and-well… Black district to the south.

Image from

The more things change…

3. A Quick Note on Sexual Violence

The new report on sexual violence on university campuses has been released. The report, “Changing the culture of acceptance: Recommendations to address sexual violence on university campuses,” can be accessed here.

On a quick skim, what stands out so far is the report’s explicit acknowledgment of the importance of a Black feminist lens, which may make this the first report by any university in the province to openly recognize this analysis:

Womanist/Black feminist theory ‘reveal(s) hierarchies of powers within categories of race, class, gender, patriarchal relations, sexuality and sexual orientation’” (Barriteau, n.d., p.15 as cited in Parris, 2010). Black feminism acknowledges the diversity of women-identified individuals and validates first person voice. Therefore, Black feminism incorporated an intersectional analysis into traditional feminist theory and practice. It maintains that experiences (e.g. racism, sexism, classism) are interconnected, and so the move toward gender equality must address all social inequalities (Academic Room, 2013;; Taylor, 1998). “Black feminist thought supports broad principles of social justice that transcend U.S. Black women’s particular needs” (Hill Collins, 2000, p. 22).

The report also addresses colonialism and ableism as important contexts for understanding sexual violence, power, and privilege. The recognition in this report of the ways race, citizenship status, disability, and other marginalized identities intersect with violence is significant, as sexual violence on campus is often imagined as only affecting white, middle-class women, and as divorced from the violence impacting women throughout the rest of society.

This report is being released as the trial of Catherine Campbell Chris Garnier attempts to rely on the defence that a woman’s alleged sexual proclivities make her responsible for her own death. This week, an ex-boyfriend testified for the defence that she had previously supposedly enjoyed “rough sex,” which apparently translates into her wanting to be strangled, killed, stuffed into a garbage bin, and dumped under the bridge.

Catherine Campbell

Catherine Campbell was a police officer. If even a cop can be treated like this, what hope is there that Indigenous and racialized women, Trans women, sex workers, poor women, women with mental health problems or addictions, etc. will ever be treated fairly?

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El Jones is a poet, journalist, professor, community advocate, and activist. Her work focuses on social justice issues such as feminism, prison abolition, anti-racism, and decolonization.

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  1. Just a suggestion. Why not ask each councillor who received e-mails on the address change, including those charged with racial “epithets”, to collect every e-mail, remove all identifying information, yet preserve the text proper and supply it to the teachers of sociology at the high schools and universities in this province. Have high school students, under the instruction and guidance of their teachers and the university students under the guidance of their profs, conduct an analysis of the bias that is revealed in the e-mails’ contents. Then, ask the participating high schools to submit their analysis to the universities and vice versa. Publish the analyses of their respective findings after having the teachers and profs agree that the necessary rigour has been applied by the students. And all of this will come from the demographic that rarely gets to dig deeper and then speak.

    Shoving a microphone in front of a grade twelve student and asking for commentary does absolutely nothing to address what appears to be lingering racist thought.That is often the go-to “news coverage” for the lazy media, and the comment given is forgotten about before the next commercial comes on. Students studying about racism, stigmatization and inequality often follow the tried and true path of examining lengthy studies, fully documented, into these topics. They have a chance today to examine these broader and more in-depth studies in the light of what is happening in 2017 in NS.

    Added benefit, it takes the microphones away from and cameras off the politicians who so very often have nothing meaningful to add.The spotlight that El Jones has put on this issue needs to be moved over to the demographic that is less political and less tainted- the high schoolers and the university students. Let’s give them a chance to have a go!
    If councillors do not agree to provide the texts of the e-mails then go to plan B- conduct the analysis using postings from social media on this topic of- is it Lucasville or Hammonds Plains? Surely there is enough “raw data” there to be accessed and drilled down into although it would not likely so rich or forthright as getting the e-mails sent to the politicians.
    Can the e-mails of elected officials be foipop-ed? If yes, would there be so much redaction that it would be a futile exercise? A fine article; it reveals a lot. (The province declared its support for Right To Know principles; so did many municipalities. Being proactive in the release of information is one of those principles.) In this instance , it is possible to protect privacy and release information as expressed in volitional statements in e-mails from residents in the affected area. We can learn a lot from such a release and from scholarly study.

  2. “…This week, an ex-boyfriend testified for the defence that she had previously supposedly enjoyed “rough sex,” which apparently translates into her wanting to be strangled, killed, stuffed into a garbage bin, and dumped under the bridge.”

    No, it apparently translates into her allegedlywanting symbolic or simulated strangulation as part of a sexual encounter. Let’s not inflate this tragedy into amusing prose, no matter how entertaining. A young woman lost her life here for goodness sake. She also allegedly asked to be slapped. This and much worse is not exactly without precedent in the annals of sexual game playing, so I’m told.

    That said this feels to me like a Hail Mary defence tactic to divert their client from an almost certain trajectory to a long stay in prison. I guess the ban on prior sexual history only applies in sexual assault cases when the plaintiff is still living. Having a former sexual partner testify she liked this sort of thing must be seen as a defence effort to at least cultivate doubt in the minds of a jury that must decide beyond reasonable doubt.

    If it really did happen, few will ever believe it.

    If the accused is found not guilty as a result of this, the all-knowing court of public opinion will decry a huge miscarriage of justice over their double-doubles, the family will feel victimized and the exonerated ex-accused will never be able to get on with his life in this province, or maybe anywhere else in Canada. It could become as famous as the Twinkie defence.

    If he is convicted, this will be written off as a failed and outrageous defence tactic.

    If it never did happen, then justice needs to be served. Thing is, we’ll never know for sure either way.

    Glad I’m not on that jury…

    1. Did you read the testimony of the boyfriend? She requested no domination, no strangulation, and in fact, wrestled him after sex as she asked to practice police moves on him. She wasnt being dominated at all…he was. So how is it relevant? So unless a woman has sex with a man lying still under a sheet with a hole in it, its relevant just because the man that kills the woman says she wanted strangulation? And even if she did, I think the point here is, she didnt want to die.

  3. “… 500 homes would need to change their address from the community of Hammonds Plains to Lucasville. Those affected will receive a letter informing them of the change.”

    So property owners there are being informed that the name of the area in which they live is being summarily changed by Council without their consultation? Even if that was being proposed to correct an historical anomaly, I think I’d be pissed. The least they might have done was circulate a proposal around the neighborhood to solicit people’s opinions.

    Whether or not they have the power to do it, this feels like City Council arrogance. Black or white, we are not their feckless minions!

    1. So who pays for the land title changes to the registry?

      Everyone living within the boundary change area has to effectively complete a Change of Address process that affects all their banking, insurance, and all services whether municipal, corporate or even just subscriptions for a magazine. But do not do it too fast, because Canada Post will have to update there Postal Code database first. I guess the municipality will need to chip in for those expenditures.

      Anyone who operates a home business has an extra load of Red Tape, especially with respect to licensing and permits.

      Google Maps will end up being updated along with all the telecom service location codes that identify pole located junction boxes for a given street and likely voter registry maps if District Boundaries are affected by the address changes.

      Same goes for all the emergency services maps, etc. And the list goes on!!!

      This little boundary change will have a somewhat hidden effect on HRM’s economy; and I doubt if a full accounting of it will ever be truly tallied of made public since such a cost counting effort would entail another significant expense to be paid for by the taxpayers… so the “total” end cost to taxpayers for changing the boundaries will never be known… just numbers hidden in future invoices and budget documents.

      Merry Christmas.

      1. Canada post delivers to the postal code, and pretty much ignores the community address. It’s never a problem. People in Dartmouth use “Halifax” as their address, and they get mail just fine. People in Spryfield sometimes use “Spryfield,” sometimes “Halifax,” no difference. You’re creating a problem where there isn’t one.

        1. You are speculating, and Postal Codes are just a small item… let’s see how it all plays out in the future. I am not creating the problem, I am speculating the same as you… the change in the boundary is what will create problems. If an arrest warrant says Hammond Plains when it should say Lucasville, will it get thrown out in court? There are hidden issues that will come up and all will be handled one way or the other; but the resolution in each case will cost someone money (time expended = money)… most costs will be borne by the taxpayer… just a speculation; but a good one.

  4. If words on paper could make everything better, they probably would have by now, Cornwallis, & Lucasville issues, are just the latest and they will not be the last. There is a movement afoot that feel one can change history by bashing it with a pen and it should be apparent that it is causing more than just a bump in the road to tolerance and understanding.

    There are many who feel that sins of our fathers should not have to be reconciled by the children of today. I am a come from away so I sit here in my adopted domicile and get to watch how it all unfolds. The media does its best to wring its hands and be supportive, but clearly many residents find the almost constant barrage of “make things right” initiatives more than just a distraction. Those who want change, do not seem to care that many of the people affected were not alive when the injustices or mistakes were made. These newer generations have grown up within their own history and are they wrong to feel that they should not have to bear the sins of those who are no longer around to face the music?

    I have no skin in this issue. What I know is that resistance to change is a built in trait that most humans have in common. I also know that the pen may be mightier than the sword in many instances; but it can never truly right the wrongs done in the past. I hope that people will read my words and understand that I do not say that the wrongs of the past should not be recognized and everything should be done to ensure that those wrongs do not reoccur in the future; but I issue a word of caution when it comes to trying to reconcile the past by trying to change the effects of history with a stroke of the pen. History unfolded over time and change will need to occur in the same manner else chaos will ensue. Those that want immediate change forget that resistance to change is just as powerful a force as the desire to right a wrong,

    I hope that understanding and peace of mind will occur, I hope that patience will rule the day, I hope that words like racist become something read about only in history books and not seen on a daily occurrence in the news media as it is today. As a “come from away” resident, I am but an solely an observer so paint me in what ever coloured brush you want…. these are just my thoughts, take them or leave them…. I feel certain they will have little affect on the out come of the future…. after all, how many residents of Nova Scotia will actually read them?

    1. In addition, note the the reaction to changing the boundaries for Hammond Plains and Lucasville strike a similarity that was and still is displayed when listening to Dartmouth residents who feel part of their identity has and will be lost because of the overshadowing inference that Dartmouth is now Halifax. The difference being that the people of Dartmouth are not inferred to be racists because they do not want their Dartmouthian identity to be messed with.

      The power of the pen would do well to not print perceptions that will then be taken out of context.

    2. You may be come-from-away but you cannot be “just an observer.” If you are white, you are existing in a white-privileged town, province, country, and globe. You live here. You cannot just be an observer…your letter for example is not living in a bubble but is attempting to affect some change.

      You also seem to suggest that this is an issue of the “sins of our fathers.” Racism and the oppression of non-white people is not episodic but continuous over the centuries. It is current and alive so the sins of the fathers are also the sins of the sons. What services and representation do black people get in the neighborhoods they live in now? How do police treat any random black person they see on the street? How is it different to the way they treat or think about any random white person? What about white teachers of black students? White mortgage bankers approving a loan? A white supervisor hiring for a job? What is it black people undergo when they move into white neighborhoods? How are they treated by their neighborhoods?

      And about your historical abuses, the sins of the fathers, those sins taken by themselves are still in effect and there are still people who lived in Africville who were affected then and now by its destruction and scattering of its population. What benefit in those survivors lives and their families can be attributed to a loss of community and location? WOuld such an act create self-worth or attack it? And its deleterious affect is not just felt by the black folk living there. As one posted mentioned, before its destruction, the school they attended was 50/50 black and white. And then had only one black person in his class afterwards. What negative affect did it have on the white folk, who now grow up in this isolated, racist world with no experience with anyone unlike themselves, no opportunity to learn that that black friends like birthday parties, tv, and mystery books too. Where now white kids will grow up and vote for political parties that work against their own interests because they believe the racist politicians will keep the black people away. People who might one day grow up and write their city councilor for the first time, not about the taxpayer money being giving away in the millions to developers but instead, to complain that their white neighborhood shouldnt have the stain of a name associated with black history for fear blacks will move in (or their co-workers make jokes about the safety of their neighborhood because of the association).

      You are not just an observer. You are are a person in this world, using the power of the pen to tell a member of the African Nova Scotian community to cool it with her pen because its not fair to the white folks who didnt do anything. You force the question. Are El Jones and other people who object to racism or would like some history that actually reflects their lives (or their fathers’ lives who were subjected to the sins of the other fathers you speak of) in the wrong? Or the people that don’t want any change because it bugs them and isn’t their fault? Should black people, women, Mi’kmaq people simply shut up and move on? History is set in stone but not the telling of it as you seem to suggest. There is no change in history requested. People like myself simply want history TOLD.

  5. On the topic of ‘sanitizing’ place names in Halifax, Besides the ridiculous Novalea Drive renaming, don’t forget developer Jason Ghosn’s umbrage at having the Pearl’s address changed from Rainnie Drive to 1901-03 Gottingen St. when the city realigned that intersection. Claims he paid a premium for the site “in recognition of the heritage of the street name.”

    Way back around 1968 my father was chair of the Home and School Association for what was then Mulgrave Park School, and they voted and approved a name change to Highland Park School, clearly as a way to distance themselves from the Mulgrave Park public housing.

    The principal at the time referred to all black kids as the Bus Children because most arrived by Bluebird bus from Africville. When I look at my old class photos the Grade Primary student makeup was roughly 50/50 white and black. The following year, just after Africville was razed, there was on black kid.

    The city has a long, deep history of this shit and it’s sad to see the Lucasville people perpetuate the attitude, while great to see the Councillor become upset about it.

    1. HRM changed the rules as to how to name streets and immediately, mere seconds after the change what was Rainnie Drive became Gottingen. It was on the Agenda as ‘In Camera’ but when mayor Savage asked if the matter needed to be dealt with In Camera the council decided to deal with it public. The documents were not made public until after the meeting.
      I am sure you know the street had never been part of Gottingen street, and the heritage of Rainnie Drive is an important memorial.
      Facts matter.

      1. Would you mind elaborating? I don’t know anything about the history of Rainnie drive. That’s what Gottigen used to be called?