A major part of Nova Scotia’s history is being honoured by a new coin commemorating Black History Month.
The Royal Canadian Mint revealed their annual Black History Month commemorative silver coin on Monday.
This year’s design is dedicated to the Black Loyalists, a group of more than 3,000 free or formerly enslaved Black people who fought for the British in the American Revolution, and settled in Nova Scotia between 1783 and 1785.
Monday’s virtual ceremony featured video messages from Prime Minster Justin Trudeau, Premier Stephen McNeil, and Minister of African Nova Scotian affairs Tony Ince.
“In order to make an inclusive society, we must remember our own country’s history,” said Justin Trudeau. “This is especially important as we celebrate the start of Black history month, because Black history is Canadian history.”
He added his thanks to the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre in Birchtown, N.S., along with the Royal Canadian Mint.
This is the third time the mint has released a coin in honour of Black History Month, with previous coins honouring Fredericton's Willie O'Ree, the first Black player in the NHL, and Viola Desmond, who in 1946 was arrested and put on trial for refusing to sit in the segregated section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow, N.S.
This year’s coin, which has a currency value of $20, features the coat-of-arms historically used by the Black Loyalists, with the Queen’s image on the reverse side.
Arthur J. LeBlanc, Nova Scotia's lieutenant governor, said he is excited about the coin and recalled a poignant experience touring the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre last year.
“We learned that the Black Loyalists, who first landed in Nova Scotia in the fall of 1783, faced the harsh realities of the onset of winter,” said LeBlanc. “We also learned that the promise of good land in exchange for their loyalty was broken.”
LeBlanc adds that despite being free people, they still faced discrimination, poverty, and unequal treatment.
“But, despite this prejudice: they persevered,” he said.
“African Nova Scotians continue to play a critical role in the development of Nova Scotia, for over 400 years,” added N.S. premier Stephen McNeil. “The people are determined, and strong. Especially when faced with great adversity.”
McNeil adds that he believes the coin will help serve as a reminder of the legacy of Black Loyalists.
“It will help preserve their story and this important part of Canadian history so it’s not forgotten,” said McNeil.
A close-up look at the new Black History Month commemorative coin. It features the coat-of-arms used by the Black Loyalists. (Photo: Royal Canadian Mint)
Marie Lemay, President and CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint, echoed the same sentiments.
“The Mint prides itself in crafting coins that honour Canada’s history, culture, and values”, she said.
Lemay also added that its design was inspired by a Nova Scotian connection.
Krista Bruce, the Mint’s product manager, developed the coin and was born in Nova Scotia as a descendant of Black Loyalists.
Charles Smith, president of the Black Loyalist Heritage Society, closed the ceremony. He is a descendent of Black Loyalists himself.
“For hundreds of years, in the face of discrimination and hate, with multiple barriers placed in front of us on our road to equality and success, we stayed the course,” said Smith. “As a proud African Nova Scotian, and speaking on behalf of African Nova Scotians: our story deserves to be told.”