Heritage and trauma: Reimagining the preservation planning process for the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children


  • Alexandra Kitson School of Planning, Dalhousie University
  • Lisa Berglund School of Planning, Dalhousie University


Planning, Development, African Nova Scotians, Trauma


The literature on trauma acknowledges that the mismanagement of sites associated with difficult experiences puts survivors at considerable risk of retraumatization and disempowerment. However, there are few policy tools available to heritage planners and development professionals to help them navigate heritage designation or redevelopment in sites with difficult histories linked to systemic racism. In this paper, we analyze the contentious redevelopment process and heritage designation related to the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children, the site of institutional abuse of African Nova Scotian children. We found that there are several gaps in existing heritage and development policies that prevent sites of racialized trauma from being acknowledged in a way that is consistent with the trauma literature. These include a lack of inclusion of difficult sites in designation, biases in scoring processes and a lack of transparent community engagement. From these findings, we provide recommendations for how policy can be improved to address these shortcomings.