AfriGeneas Canada Research Forum
Black Loyalists Museum Burned - Nova Scotia
Black Loyalist Heritage Society's office in Birchtown Burned
With two African-Nova Scotian landmarks vandalized in the past two months, Sharon Oliver can't keep quiet about what she considers hate crimes.
"The black community needs to take more responsibility and keep this front and centre," she said in an interview Friday.
"The quieter it's kept, if we acquiesce to these kinds of actions, then it'll continue to happen."
She believes different people are likely responsible, but the link the crimes share is the buildings' obvious importance in each community.
"They didn't target the Ross Museum, they didn't target one of the other 18th-century buildings down on the dock (in Shelburne); they targeted the Black Loyalist Heritage Society," said Ms. Oliver, who lives in Wolfville but is a member of the heritage society's board and helped plan the Birchtown site.
"It's very sad. When I was phoned Friday night and (was told) the building was engulfed in flames, I really couldn't say too much. I could see this small little community group with 20 years of work going up in flames, and I was dismayed."
Sgt. Barry MacLellan of Shelburne RCMP said Friday that two members of the detachment are "actively investigating" the Birchtown blaze, which appears to have been deliberately set.
"There was some indication that it might have had some racial overtones," he said. "However, at this point in time, we haven't uncovered any evidence to suggest that."
Richard Gallion, the heritage society's vice-president, said Friday he didn't want to comment on whether the blaze was racially motivated, although he admitted "it's in the back of every-body's mind."
He estimated it could take all of the building's $140,000 insurance to replace it and its contents, including original photos from settlers' descendants "that are totally gone."
"It's a great loss ... for everybody," Mr. Gallion said, though the society is already planning to rebuild.
Henry Bishop, chief curator of the Black Cultural Centre, said he didn't want to discuss the February incident.
"I don't want to change the whole atmosphere of this," he said Friday after an announcement of a badly needed $200,000 from the province to fix the centre's roof. "We're beyond that now."
Ms. Oliver said she finds the Birchtown blaze especially suspicious since the society has plans to improve on the site, founded in 1783, to make it a more enduring monument to the largest settlement of free blacks outside Africa.
"One questions whether racism is still existing in this day and age. Of course it is. And this is evidence that it is. I know that the white population is very reluctant, particularly the media and the police, to label anything, and yet we're not reluctant to label something with swastikas put on it."
Just a quick note to inform you of our loss. The Offices of the Black Loyalist Heritage Society were torched recently. At the moment I am still unsure what can be salvaged. I had recently backed up the data on my hard-drive and it was stored off-site, however, the library is no more, original photo & paintings were destroyed, irreplaceable posters & publications sustained fire and/or smoke & water damage.
We have temporarily set up an office over the Gift Shop (next door to the former office) and all contact info remains the same except for the physical address. I have attached one on-line copy of the newspaper article.
Here is the address for anyone wishing to send donations.
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