Canada has announced the designation of the Jamaican Maroons in Nova Scotia as an event of national historic significance under Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration.
The experiences of the more than 500 Jamaican Maroons forcibly transported to Nova Scotia in 1796 exemplified the insecure rights and freedoms of African-descended British subjects in the late 18th century. Formerly enslaved peoples of African ancestry and their descendants, the Maroons had lived in relative independence and isolation in Trelawny Town, Jamaica. In 1796, almost everyone from the town – approximately 150 families or more than 500 adults and children – were forcibly transported to the British colony of Nova Scotia.
In spite of an inhospitable reception in Nova Scotia, the Maroons maintained a strong sense of community through adaptation, accommodation, and resistance. They reaffirmed their allegiance to the British monarch and acceded in some cases to local demands for their labour and their attendance at Christian churches and
schools, while strongly opposing pressures to abandon traditional Akan spiritual and cultural practices. For years, the Maroons tirelessly petitioned for the freedom to leave Nova Scotia. In the end, the British arranged for their migration to Sierra Leone in 1800.
While most of the Maroons left for Sierra Leone, some individuals are believed to have remained in Nova Scotia. Their strong sense of identity, resiliency, and resistance to oppression remain a source of pride for African Nova Scotians.
“It is fitting that the Federal Government is commemorating the Trelawny Maroons in Nova Scotia as an event of National Historic Significance,” said Afua Cooper of Dalhousie University, “The Maroon exemplifies Black resistance to slavery and colonialism, and a commitment to racial and social justice. As one with roots in the Trelawny Maroon community, I am thrilled at this designation.”
“As we reflect on the designation of the Jamaican Maroons as an event of national historic significance, we can better appreciate the challenges faced by Black people, but also recognize their unwavering strength and endurance. All Canadians should take time to learn more about the designations that highlight the important contributions of Black Canadians to Canada’s growth and heritage,” added Arielle Kayabaga, MP for London West.
Jamaican Maroons contributed to the building of roads, highways, canals, bridges, buildings, and fortifications in Nova Scotia, including Government House (a national historic site, designated in 1982) and the third fortification on Citadel Hill in Halifax, which was later replaced by the fourth and final Halifax Citadel (a national historic site, designated in 1935).
While most of the Jamaican Maroons left Nova Scotia for Sierra Leone in 1800, it is widely believed that some individuals stayed behind. Their continued presence is suggested by the surnames, accents, idioms, customs, oral histories, and traditions of African Nova Scotians.
Canada officially recognizes the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent, which began in 2015 and will be observed until 2024. The International Decade promotes greater global recognition of and respect for the cultures, history and heritage of people of African descent.
Created in 1919, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advises the Minister of Environment and Climate Change regarding the national significance of persons, places, and events that have marked Canada’s history. Together with Parks Canada, the Board ensures that subjects of national historic significance are recognized under Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration and these important stories are shared with Canadians.