Black community in Nova Scotia town opposes development near recreation centre

Click to play video: 'Global News Morning Halifax: January 16'
Global News Morning Halifax: January 16
The online edition of Global News Morning with Paul Brothers on Global Halifax – Jan 16, 2024

A proposed long-term care facility in a northeastern Nova Scotia town has ignited concerns in the local Black community over the future of a much loved recreation centre.

More than 50 members of the community voiced their frustration in a lengthy meeting with New Glasgow council on Monday, which then decided to take a second look at situating a proposed 144-bed facility near the Ward One Social & Recreation Community Centre, located in the southern area of town.

“We’re not fighting against the long-term care facility, it’s just the location that they chose,” said Brandy Borden-Sylla. “The site is at the heart of the Black community. You have this beautiful property there and they want to plop a big building there.”

Borden-Sylla, who is a member of the recreation centre’s board, said community members are concerned they will lose access to parts of the property, which includes a playground, a soccer field and basketball courts.

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People from the historical Black area, who weren’t consulted, were quick to mobilize to protect a long-established facility that is one of the most used in all of Pictou County, she said.

“We use that green space for the Black homecoming (event) that we have every five years, which is really important to our community. It’s a space where we welcome everyone and everyone feels welcome there, but it’s a place where the Black community can go and it’s a safe space for us.”

Meanwhile, New Glasgow Mayor Nancy Dicks said a vote on the motion to reconsider the site for the care home is expected to be held at the end of the month.

Dicks said the site was chosen after seven locations were examined, adding that officials believed it could coexist with the recreation centre. Nevertheless, the mayor said town council was open to hearing the community’s objections.

“Every community is a little different and there are communities within communities that we have to recognize,” she said.

Dicks said the town could consider one of the other six land options, but she also cautioned that the possibility would “depend upon the vote of council.”

As for concerns over the lack of consultation, she said the town followed its normal development process.

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“We were following the process of how you go through the steps of building something like this,” Dicks said. “I guess before we even looked at that site it was felt that we should have consulted the community to ask if it was OK to look at that site. That seems to me to be what the feeling is now.”

Borden-Sylla said Monday’s meeting gave town council a chance to demonstrate that it understands her community’s stance.

“If only four or five people showed up (Monday) night then maybe the town wouldn’t have listened to us,” she said. “The fight is not over yet, but we were able to come away from that meeting with some hope.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2024.

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