René Boudreau wants Nova Scotia to be a hotspot for Black tourism.
Boudreau is the CEO and founder of Elevate and Explore Black Nova Scotia, a business dedicated to highlighting the culture, history, and heritage of the province’s Black community in order to bring Black travellers from around the world to the province.
“My hope would be that people from all backgrounds are able to learn more about the history and experience of Black people here in Nova Scotia,” said Boudreau.
Elevate and Explore has partnered with another Nova Scotia small business, Settled Nomads, to create self-guided tours of Nova Scotia that highlight significant historical sites of Black history, Black-owned businesses and Black excellence across the province.
Boudreau said she wants to create experiences where people from all backgrounds can enjoy themselves while also learning about the Black history of Nova Scotia.
“We really want to showcase narratives that go beyond the white settler, colonial narratives,” said Chelsea Hanoun, owner and operator of Settled Nomads.
“We also are really interested in showcasing, educating and celebrating the vibrant black culture and heritage we have in Mi’kma’ki,” she said.
Isaac Saney is a professor at Dalhousie who put on his own series of tours highlighting Black and Indigenous history in Halifax back in 2018.
He spoke about Nova Scotia’s rich Black history, from how there have been more than 45 historic Black communities in the province, to the migration of Black loyalists from Halifax to Sierra Leone in 1792.
He said that one of his goals with the tours was to show that Black history in Nova Scotia is Canadian history, and something that should be taught to all Canadians.
“Nova Scotia is sort of like the site of the beginning of the Black presence in Canada,” said Saney.
So why has there not been an emphasis on creating tourism opportunities that highlight the rich Black history of Nova Scotia?
Saney points to two main factors, among many: money and stereotypes.
Saney said that the people who create tourism experiences in Nova Scotia often think that only Black tourists would be interested in Black history.
“And probably (these people) don’t think that Black tourists, as a source of revenue, are equivalent to that of the typical European tourist,” said Saney.
Boudreau hopes that she can be part of changing that narrative.
“I’m hoping that people from other parts of the world will see it and be like, ‘Okay, I want to go there. I see there are Black people there’,” said Boudreau.