Jan 11 2023: Meeting Regarding Fort Edward Lands

Submitted by Shirley Pineo. On October 25 2022, the West Hants Regional Municipality passed a motion allowing us to have one year to present a plan for the use of the lands near Fort Edward. We have gathered the stakeholders together for two meetings and would like to keep everyone aware of our progress. Therefore, we are posting the notes from the meetings here.

Thank you for continuing to support this endeavour.


WHHS President Shirley Pineo gave a land acknowledgment statement, thanked the attendees and the called the meeting to order.


The lands at Fort Edward should not belong to one group of people. We are aware that most of us could be called ‘white colonists’. The history that we were taught in school was, to say the least, not accurate. This group has gathered together to learn from each other.


Gary Nelson, Vice President of the WHHS, clarified the exact piece of land being discussed adjacent to Fort Edward. He outlined the historical uses of the property from the Indigenous occupation to present day. Maps and survey plans were shown, with the two most recent being done by Parks Canada in 2011, and the municipality in 2022. Gary ended this part of the meeting with a quote from Joe Howe on the importance of history and the past. Jon Hall, WHHS Board Member, presented the results of the first stakeholders meeting, which
was attended by forty people. Rather than sell the lands adjacent to the Fort for residential development, other ideas were put forth. A copy of this meeting’s summary report was available to the attendees.

A subsequent Ballot devised by the WHHS was delivered to residents and local businesses within the municipality. Of the 400 returned ballots, none supported sale of the lands for residential development. Upon formal presentation of these results in October of 2022, municipal council made the decision to delay further movement toward rezoning and sale of the lands until October of 2023.

The municipality was thanked for allowing us the time that the community now needs to put together a plan.


Jud Porter – McDade Heritage Centre, Hantsport – His centre’s mandate is the preservation of history. He would like to see a better representation of the history of this part of Nova Scotia.

Susan Surette-Draper – President of Les Amis de Grand-Pré, representative of the Cimetière Sainte-Famille in Falmouth – the lands have a strong Acadian component and could be augmented with better interpretation.

Sandra Barss – President of the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia – there is so much history in this province and there is a much broader story to tell.

Ted Dolan – Parks Canada, Site Manager for Fort Edward as well as other National Historic Sites in south western Nova Scotia – He is here to listen, and to participate in the discussion.

Peter Ashley – retired Hants County history teacher, interested in regimental history at Fort Edward.

Pat Whidden – member of the East Hants Historical Society, retired Hants County history teacher, and cousin to Peter Ashley. Their ancestors were soldiers from Douglas township and walked the ground at Fort Edward. They want to see preservation, public use, education and enjoyment at Fort Edward.

Gary Nelson – Vice President WHHS – reminded us that research shows that approx. 1100 Acadians were deported from the Fort, 3rd largest population that were deported.

Richard Armstrong – historian from Falmouth – would like to see more of the local area in general preserved for future tourism.

Vin Toney – Second in command of the Mi’Kmaq Warrior Society – has a goal of trying to protect their interest in the unceded lands from the Indian village down to Indian orchard. He is here to educate us. It is not just two acres of land, it is the whole town, whole province that they
own and want to protect.

Kel Hancock – Past President of the WHHS – very happy meeting is open in the spirit of truth and reconciliation. There can be no reconciliation without the truth. He takes the wholistic approach, not just this Fort Edward hill, Acadian-Mi’Kmaq alliance and resistance .There were some Acadians who were not deported. It is possible there may have been eight block houses or fortifications along the Avon River.

Darlene Gilbert -Annapolis Valley First Nations, Water Protector – unceded territory is what needs to be remembered here, no deed. Her ancestors walked through this land first. We just want respect. Housing is important, we understand the crisis, but we all need to work together to perhaps build a longhouse, needs to stay unceded, not for residential, which would only give the province more money, not anyone else.

Darrel Leighton – Royal Canadian Legion representative – wants what happens to help us remember the veterans and the community. He has vested interest in the history: – he is a Leighton also. The Windsor area did become a military town, so his interest is interpretation over
the years, military history is never pleasant but they were facts. Need a result that is respectful for all communities.

Jon Hall – member of the WHHS – from a business point of view, he is aware that over 2000 people visit the Fort every summer. Presenting all the history of this area would be an asset to the community, slow visitors down so that they stop to have lunch, or ideally stay over-night.
There can be a commercial piece to this development.

VanEssa Roberts – Municipality’s Community Economic Development representative – has a keen interest in the history too. Here just to observe and see whatever she can do to help.

Mark Phillips – Municipality’s CAO – here to observe and support with information. He met early with the WHHS. Council are the decision makers. He is neutral. We need to be open and mindful. He is appreciative of being here.

Alex Dunphy- Planner with the municipality – he echoes Mark and VanEssa.

John Wilson – keen historian also a Past President of the WHHS – Interested in the history of all the area. He has given people tours to help interpret the historical importance of this area, especially Fort Edward.

Dawn Allen – member WHHS – full history of this important area needs to be told so people can be better educated (perhaps starting with the natural environment), and to present an attraction that will enhance business while history is more fully being interpreted.

Rob Ferguson – retired archaeologist from Parks Canada – Fort Edward is an under represented in terms of site development by Parks Canada at this point in time.

Jonathan Fowler – Saint Mary’s Univ and archaeological consultant – Says he is attending this meeting not representing anyone, but acknowledges that he performed a high level assessment of the property earlier last year. He noted that Hwy 101 traffic counts show that 3 million cars per year go by this community. He asks what percentage traffic can we get to stop. The Windsor and surrounding area is not at the back of beyond, like Canso for example. This presents an opportunity for us all.

Using the examples of Grand Pré, Port Royal, Fort Anne, Mr Fowler cited that it was community engagement that came first, with government support coming later that created the national historic status of these sites. The Fort Edward site could also benefit from a public/community research project. This would provide high profile attention. In heritage, we talk about integrity and authenticity. Most sites like Port Royal and Grand Pré are reconstructions. The block house at Fort Edward is authentic. That is worth something. Lots of interesting things can be done. Stories could be presented that touch all communities over the years.


Great knowledge and if we cannot preserve it, then no one can. Once it is gone, it cannot be brought back. She is beginning to feel that the Historical Society is not standing on its own, and has good community support going forward. Range of suggestions from previous meetings went from washrooms to an interpretive center, but we need more detail. Should it be natural, or buildings? Who will be a chair for this group? Or, should we go outside to get a chair?


Vin Toney says: build on what showcases all. He wants to set up a tepee and a longhouse (not a truck house). 13,000 years ago we were here. He thanks the WHHS for contacting him first. Ted Dolan asks if it would be possible to do a longhouse? Vin says approximate longhouse dimensions – 15 – 18 ft wide by 20-30 ft long. They could probably build one.

Shirley requests that we display a flag for the Indigenous community at the Fort, if there is one. Vin says there is a flag. Ted says Parks Canada is researching/updating this. Ted pointed out that to date, Fort Edward has not paid much attention to the Fort, but Parks Canada will invest if the municipality does. Ted asks whether a longhouse could be used as an education center? Yes, say Vin and Darlene. Ceremonies and education, sharing of culture. Susan Surette-Draper if there is a long house established, could it serve other purposes? Yes, Vin says, especially if there is a regular hall/interpretive center next to it. Build modern day center, but a longhouse and tepee as well. All agree it would be a tourism draw and presents educational opportunities for students and adults alike. Jud Porter: discussion is great. But process? Mark as CAO, was asked if the date of October 2023 was definite or flexible? Gary says if we went back to council we might be able to ask for another extension. How much do we have to have Mark? Shirley says we need a conceptual plan and show that we are working.
Mark says: every councilor votes, Mark’s opinion is that this is not driven by finances. Mark suggests quarterly updates, keep it fresh.
Re: transparency, all seem to agree that all discussion results need to be presented to the public for transparency and to generate more information.

NOTE: We could not establish a ZOOM linkage to the out-of-the-province Acadian representation, but their interest is definitely with us. We will try to keep all invited groups aware of our progress on this project including the Jewish legion, local Agricultural society, as well.


We are interested in preserving this land. So feeling confident on moving forward. Longhouse and size. Next meeting, smaller Sub-meeting group, with the municipality being invited. Mi’Kmaq will be here, WHHS, Acadian representation, Parks Canada, Sara Beanlands or Jewish
legion representative, Royal Canadian Legion representation with Darrel Leighton. So Sub-meetings will go forward at this time.

Jon Fowler agreed to act as a resource in regards to a Field School in the Spring (April 27 – May 1st), using ground penetrating radar. The target is the unmarked garrison cemetery which connects to all communities. This will bring people off the 101 highway. Can do a presentation..

Videotape it says Jud. Jud also mentioned that the topic of Fort Edward has come up when he has talked with Kody Blois. Kody has said that should the community find consensus, and people can come together, he would go to bat for us in Ottawa. Pat Whidden confirmed that Kody is a strong supporter of Kings-Hants.

Vanessa suggested that Jonathan Fowler could be our presenter at our next Banquet. Vin Toney feels that this will benefit all through tourism opportunities.

Sub-meeting in 2 weeks: January 25th 1pm. All to receive updates from sub meetings.

In March, Shirley will send out a notice of a meeting which will include the entire group.

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