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Nova Scotia

One of the maritime provinces of Canada

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Nova Scotia.—I. GEOGRAPHY.—Nova Scotia is one of the maritime provinces of Canada. It forms part of what was formerly Acadie or Acadia and now consists of what is known as the peninsula of Nova Scotia proper and the Island of Cape Breton. The island is separated from the mainland by the Gut or Strait of Canso, an important international waterway connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This strait is about fifteen miles long and varies in width from half a mile to two miles. Sable Island, a dangerous sand ridge, on which in 1518 a Frenchman, named de Lery, made a fruitless attempt to form a settlement, was before the confederation of the provinces a part of the Province of Nova Scotia, but by the Union Act (British North America Act of 1867) this island came under the exclusive legislative authority of the Dominion Parliament. It is about twenty-five miles long and of varying width. In some places it is about a mile and a half wide. From the numerous ship-wrecks that have occurred there, Sable Island has become known as “the graveyard of the Atlantic”.

The Province of Nova Scotia lies between 43° 25′ and 47° north latitude, and 59° 40′ and 66° 35′ west longitude. On the north it is bounded by the Bay of Fundy, Chignecto Bay, New Brunswick, Northumberland Straits, and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, and on all other sides by the Atlantic Ocean. The peninsula is connected with the Province of New Brunswick by the Isthmus of Chignecto which is about twelve and a half miles wide. The total area of Nova Scotia is estimated at about 21,428 square miles. The surface is undulating. There are three mountain ranges, namely: the Cobequid Mountains, commencing at Cape Chignecto in Cumberland and running about one hundred miles through the Counties of Colchester, Pictou and Antigonish; the North Mountains extending from Cape Blomidon to Digby Neck, about one hundred and ten miles; and the South Mountains, a low range parallel with the North Mountains and with some interruptions running through the middle of the peninsula and through the Island of Cape Breton, the range being about three hundred and fifty miles long. The greatest height of these mountains is 1700 feet above sea level. The rivers are small, and no part of the country is far from the sea. The lakes are numerous but not large. The Bras d’Or Lakes in Cape Breton divide the island into two parts and cover about 500 square miles. The coastline of Nova Scotia is about 1500 miles and there are numerous ports of refuge. The harbors of Halifax, Louisburg, and Sydney are among the best in North America. The average temperature ranges from 65° F. in summer to 25° F. in winter. The high tides on the Bay of Fundy constitute an unusual physical feature of the counties lying along the bay.

The resources of Nova Scotia are diversified. Farming, mining, fishing, lumbering, and manufacturing yield an ample return to the industry of the inhabitants. In the counties lying along the Bay of Fundy and penetrated by the inlets are valuable dikelands begun by the early French settlers, and continued after the expulsion of the Acadians by the colonists from New England, who in 1760 and 1761 took possession of the lands of the expelled Acadians. The agricultural products of the country are hay, wheat, oats, barley, potatoes, and turnips, all of which obtain a local market. In the Annapolis Valley about 750,000 barrels of apples are annually produced and shipped to the English markets. There are large coal measures in the Counties of Cumberland, Pictou, Inverness, and Cape Breton. The coal is bituminous, and supplies the local demand and a large portion of the markets of the St. Lawrence River. Iron, copper, and gypsum are also mined. The coast fisheries are looked upon as very valuable. They consist of salmon, cod, shad, halibut, mackerel, herring, shellfish, and are exported to American and European markets. The forests produce maple, birch, hemlock, spruce, pine, and beech. The manufacturing interests are also extensive, the larger plants being the iron and steel works at Sydney and Sydney Mines.

II. ETHNOGRAPHY.—When the European colonists first came to Nova Scotia they found the country inhabited by a tribe of Indians known as the Micmacs. These savages were converted to Christianity by the early French missionaries. Their descendants, numbering 1542 at the time of the last official census (1901), belong to the Catholic Church. They live principally on reservations set aside for them by the Government. The duty of caring for the Indians has been assigned by the British North American Act to the Parliament of Canada. The descendants of the French settlers form an important body. They numbered at the time of the last census 45,161. They also are Catholics and are noted for their industry and frugality. The Germans form another important element. They are descended from the body of German settlers who arrived in Nova Scotia shortly after the founding of Halifax and in 1753 removed to the County of Lunenburg. Principally Lutherans and Anglicans, they are thrifty and industrious. The English settlers came in after the defeat of the French, and after the Revolutionary War from twenty to thirty thousand loyalists left the United States and settled in Nova Scotia. Later on came accessions from Ireland and Scotland. At the last census these last-mentioned races were estimated as follows: English, 159,753; Scottish, 143,382; Irish, 54,710. There were also 5984 negroes in the province. They are descended from slaves who were brought to Nova Scotia before the abolition of slavery in British dominions. The total population of the Province of Nova Scotia in 1901 was 459,572, of whom 129,578 were returned as Catholics.

III. HISTORY.—John Cabot made his first voyage from Bristol in search of a westerly route to India in 1497. He made a landfall on the eastern coast of North America, but whether on Labrador, Newfoundland, or Nova Scotia is uncertain. No actual settlement immediately followed the voyages of the Cabots. In 1604 King Henry IV of France gave a commission to de Monts appointing him viceroy of the territory lying between the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the mouth of the Hudson River. De Monts arrived at the mouth of the La Have River on the coast of Nova Scotia and he then sailed up the Bay of Fundy and into the sheet of water which is now known as the Annapolis Basin. Here, near what is now the town of Annapolis, a site was chosen for a settlement and to the place de Monts gave the name of Port-Royal. Leaving some of his companions there he sailed along the northern shore of the Bay of Fundy, entered the St. John River and later made his winter quarters at the mouth of the St. Croix River. The companions whom he left at Port-Royal returned to France. The following year de Monts and the survivors of his party at St. Croix returned to Port-Royal. This was the beginning of European settlement in Canada, and the colony thus established is the oldest European settlement in North America with the exception of St. Augustine in Florida. The colony was temporarily abandoned in 1607, but in 1610 the French returned and remained in undisturbed possession until 1613, when a freebooter from Virginia named Argall made a descent upon the colony and totally destroyed it.

In 1621 King James I gave a grant of Acadia to Sir William Alexander and changed the name to Nova Scotia; but the efforts of Sir William Alexander to build up an English settlement were of little avail. After the capture of Quebec by David Kirke, peace was made between France and Great Britain by the Treaty of St-Germain-en-Laye (1632), and Quebec and Nova Scotia were given back to France. But in 1654 Cromwell sent out a fleet to capture the Dutch colony at Manhattan, and a portion of his fleet sailed into Annapolis Basin, and Port-Royal surrendered to them. After the accession of Charles II, by the Treaty of Breda, Nova Scotia was again restored to France. In 1690 Sir William Phips took command of a naval force from Massachusetts, and he easily took Port-Royal, but he left no garrison there and the French soon reoccupied it. After several years of war terms of peace were again arranged between Great Britain and France by the Treaty of Ryswick (1679) and Nova Scotia was once again placed under the rule of France. The final capture of Port-Royal took place in 1710 when the French surrendered to Colonel Nicholson, who named the settlement Annapolis in honor of Queen Anne. The long warfare between the two countries for the possession of Nova Scotia proper was brought to a close by the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), which provided that the peninsula should belong to England and the Island of Cape Breton to France. Annapolis became the capital of the colony and the only other English settlement was at Canso. Very few settlers arrived in the country for nearly forty years. The French to regain their position strongly fortified Louisburg on the southeast coast of Cape Breton. War again broke out and in 1745 a force was sent from Massachusetts under Colonel William Pepperell. After a siege of seven weeks the Governor of Louisburg was obliged to surrender. To recapture Louisburg the French in the year following sent out a powerful fleet under d’Anville. This expedition was unfortunate. The fleet encountered bad weather and after the remnants of it arrived at Chebucto (Halifax) Harbour, the commander and many of the men died; those who survived returned to France. Great Britain held Louisburg for three years after the first capture; and then terms of peace were arranged by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) and Louisburg was given to France. To strengthen the position of the English in Nova Scotia it was determined to establish a permanent settlement on the shores of Chebucto Harbour. Accordingly in June, 1749, Colonel Cornwallis arrived with a number of settlers and founded the town of Halifax. The seat of government was transferred from Annapolis to the new town, and Cornwallis selected a council to assist him in the administration of the colony. Six years later occurred the cruel expulsion of the Acadians from their fertile lands along the Bay of Fundy. Several thousands of these people were banished from Nova Scotia and scattered in the English colonies from Massachusetts to Louisiana. In many cases families were separated and the event remains a dark blot on the reputation of the English governor of that day.

From 1749 to 1758 the governor of the colony administered its affairs with the assistance of a council, but there were no representatives directly chosen by the people. In the latter year the first representative Assembly was convened in Halifax. By the laws of that time Roman Catholics were disqualified from holding seats in the legislature.

In 1756 began the famous Seven Years’ War; two years later the final capture of Louisburg, under General Amherst, took place. The siege lasted for seven weeks and at last the French governor was obliged to surrender unconditionally. By the Treaty of Paris (1763) France ceded Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island, and Canada to Great Britain, and the long duel in North America between the two great European powers came at last to an end. Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island became a part of Nova Scotia; but in 1770 Prince Edward Island severed its political connection, as in 1784 did Cape Breton and New Brunswick. Cape Breton was reannexed to Nova Scotia in 1819. During the Revolutionary War Nova Scotia remained loyal to Britain. Many people in the United States who did not approve of the war migrated to the British provinces. These were known as United Empire Loyalists. In the province to which they removed they received free grants of land and they formed a valuable accession to the scant population.

At the first session of the Legislature of Nova Scotia a law was passed requiring all Catholic priests to leave the country; and any person who harbored a priest was liable to payment of a large fine. These laws were subsequently repealed. In 1827 a Catholic was permitted, for the first time, to take his seat as a member of the Assembly. While Nova Scotia had representative government as early as 1758, the executive was not in any way responsible to the people; affairs were so administered for about seventy years. Then arose a strong agitation under the brilliant leadership of Joseph Howe. After several years of discussion and negotiation, in 1848, responsible government was secured and thereafter the tenure of office of the government was made to depend upon the support of the representatives of the people in the Assembly. The next twenty years were years of continued progress. Steam communication was established with England; railways were built; and a revival of trade took place. In 1867 the Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario were confederated as the Dominion of Canada, under the provision of the British North America Act. The legislative functions of the Dominion and of the provinces were separated, and subjects of local concern were assigned to the several provinces. Among the latter may be mentioned education and municipal institutions, solemnization of marriage, and property and civil rights. Among the powers assigned to the Dominion are the postal service, census and statistics, military and naval service and defense, navigation, banking, copy-rights, marriage and divorce, and the regulations in regard to the Indians.

IV. CHURCH AND STATE.—The relations between Church and State do not give rise to much complaint. There is no state religion, and all religious denominations are placed on an equality by the law. The school system is undenominational. The Catholics have no separate schools, but in centers of population where they are numerous and in country districts where they predominate, they are permitted by usage to have teachers of their own belief. There is perfect freedom of worship in every respect.

V. DIVISION INTO DIOCESES, POPULATION, ETC.—The Province of Nova Scotia is divided into two dioceses: the Archdiocese of Halifax, which embraces the eleven westernmost counties of the province; and the Diocese of Antigonish, which embraces the four counties on Cape Breton Island, and the Counties of Guys-borough, Pictou, and Antigonish on the peninsula. According to the last official census there were 54,301 Catholics in the Archdiocese of Halifax, and 75,277 in the Diocese of Antigonish. By chapter 31 of the Acts of the Legislature of Nova Scotia for the year 1849, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Halifax and his successors were incorporated under the name of “the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of the City and County of Halifax” with perpetual succession, and power to hold, receive and enjoy real and personal estate. In 1888, by chapter 102 of the Acts of that year, s. 4, it was provided as follows:—”The Corporation may acquire by deed of conveyance or by devise or in any other manner for the time being recognized by law lands within Nova Scotia and may have, hold, possess and enjoy the same for the general uses and purposes eleemosynary, ecclesiastical or educational of the Archdiocese or of any portion thereof or for any such uses or purposes and may sell, alien, exchange, assign, release mortgage, lease, convey or otherwise dispose of such lands or any part thereof for such uses and purposes or any of them in the manner hereinafter provided”. This statute also provides that all Church property, real and personal, shall be vested in the corporation and used as the property of the Roman Catholic Church within the archdiocese for eleemosynary, ecclesiastical, and educational purposes. The corporation executes a deed by its corporate seal and the signature of the archbishop, his coadjutor or vicar-general, and one other Roman Catholic clergyman of the archdiocese. The Diocese of Antigonish was formerly known as the Diocese of Arichat; by chapter 86 of the Acts of the Legislature of Nova Scotia for 1887 the name was changed from Arichat to Antigonish. The Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Antigonish was created by Chapter 74 of the Acts of the Legislature of Nova Scotia (1854), and the legislative provisions with respect to this corporation are substantially the same as those relating to the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Halifax.

VI. TAXATION AND EXEMPTION OF CHURCHES, ETC.—The Assessment Act [R.S.N.S.. 1900, c. 73, sec. 4, SS. (b)] exempts from taxation every church and place of worship and the land used in connection therewith, and every church and burial ground. The same statute also exempts the real estate of every college, academy, or institution of learning and every schoolhouse. The statute mentioned applies to all property in Nova Scotia outside of the city of Halifax. Property within the city of Halifax is dealt with by the Halifax City Charter, S. 335, which exempts every building used as a college, incorporated academy, schoolhouse, or other seminary of learning, and every building used for public worship and the site, appurtenances and furniture of each. This charter also exempts every poorhouse, almshouse, orphans’ home, house of industry, house of refuge, and infants’ home, while used for the purposes indicated by their respective designations, and all their real and personal property.

VII. EXEMPTION OF THE CLERGY FROM PUBLIC SERVICES.—There are no obnoxious public duties required to be performed by clergymen. The Juries’ Act (R. S. N. S., 1900, c. 162, s. 5) exempts from serving on juries “clergymen and ministers of the Gospel”. The Militia Act (R. S., c. 41, s. 11) provides that the clergy and ministers of all religious denominations, professors in colleges and universities, and teachers in religious orders shall be exempt from liability to serve in the militia.

VIII. PRISONS AND REFORMATORIES.—These are maintained by the State and are non-denominational. The clergy are permitted to minister to the spiritual wants of the people of their own faith. At Halifax there are two reformatories conducted under Catholic auspices, namely, St. Patrick’s Home for Boys, and the Good Shepherd Reformatory for women. Under the provisions of the Act relating to prisons and reformatories (R. S. C., c. 148), whenever a boy, who is a Catholic and under eighteen years, is convicted in Nova Scotia for an offense for which he is liable to imprisonment, the presiding justice may sentence such boy to be detained in St. Patrick’s Home for a term not exceeding five years and not less than one year. The statute provides also that boys so detained shall be educated and taught a trade. This home is assisted from the public funds and is open at all time to public inspection. It is under the direction of the Christian Brothers. The statute provides also that juvenile offenders and vagrants may be sent to this reformatory. Similar provision is made in the case of a girl, being a Catholic and above the age of sixteen years, convicted of an offense punishable by imprisonment in the city prison or common jail for a term of two months or longer. She may be sentenced to the Good Shepherd Reformatory at Halifax, for an extended or substituted imprisonment subject to conditions: (a) if she is under the age of twenty-one, such extended imprisonment may be until she attains the age of twenty-one, or for any shorter or longer term not less than two and not more than four years; (b) if she is of the age of twenty-one or upwards, such extended imprisonment may be for any term not less than one year and not more than two years. Catholic girls under the age of sixteen may be sentenced in the same way to the Good Shepherd Industrial Refuge at Halifax, where the sisters are in charge and are obliged to instruct them in reading and writing and in arithmetic to the end of simple proportion, and also to teach them a trade or occupation suitable to their capabilities. The Good Shepherd Reformatory receives assistance from the public funds and is subject to inspection by a government official.

IX. WILLS AND CHARITABLE BEQUESTS.—Every person of the age of twenty-one years and upwards may dispose of his property by will. Such will must be signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses who shall subscribe thereto as witnesses in his presence and in the presence of each other. By statute (R. S. N. S., 1900, c. 135) a devise or bequest of real or personal property to any religious or charitable corporation or any incorporated institution of learning is valid and effectual for the purpose of vesting the property in such body, notwithstanding that it was not by its act of incorporation empowered to take or hold real or personal property or notwithstanding any limit in such act as to the amount of real or personal property the incorporated body was empowered to take or hold—provided the statute shall not extend to render valid or effectual any devise or bequest that is to be void for another reason.

X. CEMETERIES.—By statute (R. S. N. S., 1900, c. 132) it is provided that any number of persons, not less than ten, may form themselves into a company for the purpose of establishing a public cemetery. Catholic cemeteries, however, are owned by the Episcopal Corporation of the diocese. Cemeteries are exempt from taxation and the lots or plots owned by individual proprietors cannot be seized or taken on execution.

XI. MARRIAGE LAWS.—By the provisions of the British North America Act, the subject of marriage and divorce is assigned to the Dominion Parliament, and that of the solemnization of marriage to the legislature of the province. The former body, under this distribution, deals with the capacity to contract marriage, and in pursuance of such power it has enacted (R. S. C., c. 105) that “a marriage is not invalid merely because the woman is a sister of a deceased wife of the man, or a daughter of a sister of a deceased wife of the man”. The provincial statute (R.S.N.S., 1900, c. 111) deals with the mode of solemnizing a marriage within the province. It provides that every marriage shall be solemnized by a minister of a church or religious denomination, being a man and resident in Canada, who is recognized as duly ordained according to the rites and ceremonies of the church or denomination to which he belongs. Persons belonging to the society known as the Salvation Army may be married by any duly appointed male commissioner or staff officer of the society. No person shall officiate at the solemnization of any marriage unless publication has been made of the banns of the marriage or a license has been obtained for the solemnization of the marriage. The banns shall be published in any church at the place in which one of the parties resides by the officiating clergyman in an audible voice during the time of Divine service, and if there is more than one public service in the church on each Sunday, such publication shall be made at three several services held on two or more Sundays; otherwise the publication may be at two several services on two Sundays. Every marriage shall be solemnized in the presence of at least two witnesses. After the solemnization of the marriage the clergyman solemnizing the same shall make out a certificate containing the date of the marriage, the place thereof, the date of the publication of the banns, the church in which and the clergyman by whom the banns were published, the names of the witnesses and his own name, and the religious denomination to which he belongs. The marriage register giving the above particulars, and also the names, ages, residences, etc., of the parties and their parents shall also be filled up. Returns in the prescribed form shall be made by the clergyman to the nearest issuer of marriage licenses within ten days after the solemnization. Forms for that purpose are furnished by the issuer of marriage licenses. Large penalties are provided for solemnizing marriage without banns of marriage or license, for refusing to publish the banns, for solemnizing under an illegal license, and for failing to return the marriage register.

XII. DIVORCE .—In Nova Scotia there is a court for divorce and matrimonial causes, and it has jurisdiction over all matters relating to prohibited marriages and divorce, and may declare any marriage null and void for impotence, adultery, cruelty, or kindred within the degrees prohibited in an Act made in the thirty-second year of King Henry the Eighth, entitled “An Act concerning pre-contracts, and touching degrees of Consanguinity”; and whenever a sentence of divorce shall be given, the court may pronounce such determination as it shall think fit on the rights of the parties or either of them to courtesy or dower. In the provinces of the dominion in which no divorce courts exist, applications for divorce are made to Parliament and the evidence is taken and considered by the members of the Senate of Canada. In Nova Scotia there is an appeal from the decision of the judge of the Divorce Court to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia sitting in banco. When the final decree is for the dissolution of the marriage, the statute enables either of the parties to marry again as if the prior marriage had been dissolved by death; but no clergyman shall be liable to any penalty for refusing to solemnize the marriage of either of the parties who have been divorced. In cases of divorce the wife and husband are not competent to testify, but in proceedings by the wife, on account of adultery coupled with cruelty, the husband and wife are competent and compellable to give evidence of or relating to such cruelty.

XIII. RELIGIOUS ORDERS, SCHOOLS, ETC.—Several of the public schools of the province are taught by members of the religious orders. In such cases the teachers must be licensed in the same way as other public teachers, and they are paid out of the public funds. Besides the public schools there are many excellent private schools taught by members of religious orders. These do not receive any assistance from the public treasury. The public schools are maintained by a grant from the government and by local taxation upon the property holders of the section or municipality. They are otherwise free and all children of school age are entitled to be admitted to them.


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