Government of Canada recognizes the national historic significance of the Jamaican Maroons in Nova Scotia
The resistance to oppression and resiliency of the Jamaican Maroons are a continued source of pride
February 22, 2023 Gatineau, Quebec Parks Canada
National historic designations encourage us to acknowledge both the triumphs and the struggles that have led us to the Canada of today, and help us reflect on how to build a more inclusive society for today and future generations.
Today, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, 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.
The Government of Canada, through the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, recognizes significant persons, places, and events that have shaped our country as one way of helping Canadians connect with their past. By sharing these stories with Canadians, we hope to foster understanding and reflection on the diverse histories, cultures, legacies, and realities of Canada’s past and present.
The designation process under Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration is largely driven by public nominations. To date, more than 2,200 designations have been made nationwide. To nominate a person, place or historic event in your community, please visit the Parks Canada website for more information: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/culture/clmhc-hsmbc/ncp-pcn/application.
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“The Jamaican Maroons left a lasting legacy with their dignity, strength, resiliency, and resistance to oppression and still hold a prominent place within the collective memory of African Nova Scotians. Recognizing the national historic significance of the Jamaican Maroons in Nova Scotia helps to memorialize their unique history and contributes to the greater story of Canada.”
The Honourable Steven Guilbeault
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada
“The Trelawny Maroons of Jamaica, demonstrated sheer will and determination through adversity to make significant contributions to Nova Scotia. Today, their resilient legacy lives on in the African Nova Scotian Community and through the remarkable stone work that is a part of the heritage of Citadel Hill and Government House in this province.”
Executive Director, Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia
"The unique experience of this incredibly defiant community of African Jamaicans in being forcibly sent to Nova Scotia reflects another way that Black people in Canada are resistant, are communal (family oriented) and are diverse. The impact of the Maroons lies in their construction of The Citadel, the creation of communities and in the choice, by many, to leave for Sierra Leone after 4 years in Nova Scotia and speaks to the nature of an intangible freedom."
Author, Speaker, Historian, Consultant, and Champion of February as Black History Month & August 1st as Emancipation Day
“It is fitting that the Federal Government is commemorating the Trelawny Maroons in Nova Scotia as an event of National Historic Significance. 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.”
Killam Research Chair, Dalhousie University
“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.”
Member of Parliament for London West and Chair of the Black Caucus
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.
Parks Canada is committed to working with Canadians in our efforts to tell broader, more inclusive stories in the places that it manages. In support of this goal, the Framework for History and Commemoration outlines a comprehensive, and engaging approach to sharing Canada’s history through diverse perspectives, including shedding light on tragic and difficult periods of Canada’s past.
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
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