Nova Scotia to rename place names containing derogatory word

Chuck Smith. president of the Black Loyalist Heritage Society

New names for four Nova Scotia places in Shelburne County containing a derogatory word will have new names chosen in early 2022.

A survey asking area residents to vote on new names will come to a close at the end of December.

“The final selections will be tallied in the new year and will then go to the municipalities of Shelburne and Barrington, along with the local MLA, to receive their support,” said Blaise Theriault of the Department of Service Nova Scotia

Together, they will decide what the new names will be for Cape Negro (the area), Cape Negro Harbour, Cape Negro Island and Cape Negro (a point on the island).

Theriault said that the process of changing the four place names began with two applications in 2018.

A local man issued a complaint to the provincial government about place names that included a racial slur, after being called the same slur in a coffee shop.

Theriault said there has been public engagement about the name change since June.

“We received hundreds of responses which included proposed names for the locations,” Theriault said. “The department then researched and vetted the proposed names and has now shared a list of names back to residents of Shelburne County for final selection.”

Cape Negro

For Cape Negro, the five proposed names are Peaceful Haven, Cape Perseverance, Cape Freedom, Cape Hope and Herbertville.

For Cape Negro Island, the options are Spirit Island, Freedom Island, New Hope Island and Cromwell Island.

For the cape of Cape Negro, it’s between Peaceful Point, Cape Courage, Cape Loyalist Point and Cape Faith.

The proposed names for Cape Negro Harbour are Loyalist Harbour, Precious Waters, Freedom Harbour and New Hope Harbour.

Both Herbert and Cromwell were family names shared by some of the Black Loyalists who stayed in Nova Scotia instead of leaving Birchtown in 1792 to settle in Sierra Leone, Africa, like many others at the time.

In March Chuck Smith, a descendant of Black Loyalists, made a presentation to municipal councillors and explained how hearing the word makes him feel.

In a recent letter he wrote to Shelburne County, he stated that the areas to be renamed should honour the Black loyalists that lived in the area.

“We must change the names of these communities to show respect for our Black ancestors who came to Nova Scotia to escape racism but faced so much discrimination and racism when they arrived here in Nova Scotia they were forced to move from these small communities,” he wrote.

Smith stated in the letter that he hopes “the community will change the name to a prominent Black loyalist.”

However, the Department of Service Nova Scotia did not say if the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre & Society will have any say in the final decision.

“It is important that places in our province have names that are respectful and inclusive for all Nova Scotians,” said Theriault.

“When we change a place name, we need to make sure that we work with communities to select the right name.”