N.S. to discuss options for controversial Cornwallis statue in Halifax

The Canadian Press
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A statue of Edward Cornwallis stands in a Halifax park on Thursday, June 23, 2011. Nova Scotia's premier says he will discuss options for a statue of Halifax city founder Edward Cornwallis that the Mi'kmaq community has long argued is racist.

British military officer, lauded as Halifax’s founder, constant reminder to Mi’kmaqs of his scalping proclamation

The name of a British military officer once lauded as Halifax’s founder is splashed across the capital city, serving as a constant reminder to the Mi’kmaq community of their ancestors who died under his scalping proclamation more than 260 years ago, says Mi’kmaq elder Daniel Paul.

A statue of Edward Cornwallis sits in a downtown park that also bears his name, just a few kilometres from Cornwallis Street.

But there has been a movement in recent years to strike a compromise that recognizes the city’s history while still acknowledging the atrocities Cornwallis committed.

Cornwallis, a governor of Nova Scotia, founded Halifax in 1749 and issued the cash bounty that same year, which included Mi’kmaq men, women and children.

“When you go and you do such a horrible thing with the intent to exterminate a race of people from an area, it’s kind of horrible for a society to be idolizing such a man as a hero,” said Paul, who has been working for decades to expose “Nova Scotia’s hidden history.”

“It would be the same as a Jewish person walking down the street in Germany and seeing a statue of Hitler.”

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil has agreed to discuss options for the three-metre statue that has long been viewed as racist by the Mi’kmaq community and beyond.

McNeil’s comments came after a question in the legislature on Friday from Progressive Conservative politician Allan MacMaster, who argued the statue should come down, as it stands as a “tribute to the near extermination of Mi’kmaq people in Nova Scotia.”

A spokeswoman for McNeil said the premier plans to meet with Halifax Mayor Mike Savage to discuss the statue, which has stood in the downtown park for more than 80 years.

McNeil noted in the legislature that interpretive signs recognizing Cornwallis were recently removed from the Cornwallis River, which runs near a First Nations community in the Annapolis Valley, following a request from Paul.

“We will continue to work with our partners both municipally and the Mi’kmaq community to ensure that our history is reflected, but done so in a respectful way,” said McNeil, who is also the province’s aboriginal affairs minister.

Paul said his goal is not to erase Cornwallis from history books, but to strike a compromise that recognizes his brutal acts.

He said he would like to see the statue removed from the park and placed in the depths of the Citadel Hill fortress. He would also like to see the name Cornwallis removed from other places around the city, such as the park and street.

“Cornwallis should be relegated to the history books,” said Paul in a phone interview on Sunday, adding that its not known exactly how many Mi’kmaq people died under Cornwallis’ proclamation.

Organizations: First Nations

Geographic location: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Cornwallis Street Germany Cornwallis River Annapolis Valley

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Recent comments

  • SlyFox
    December 15, 2015 - 07:51

    All people should be taught history as it was and not water it down to fit political correctness. If we are only told the good deeds and not the bad we are being mislead. Leave the statue as it is and tell the whole story of this man and leave political correctness out of it.This way we learn truly who this person is and what he has done.

  • david
    December 14, 2015 - 22:35

    This is what happens when a province elects a premier with very little education. It is utter insanity that the premier wants to basically rewrite history and remove any of the bad things so people don't know about them. bad things were done in the past as will be in the future live with it but don't try to hide from it. people who forget their history are bound to repeat it.

  • Angus
    December 14, 2015 - 17:11

    As usual - political correctness run amuck. Whiteman was all bad, natives were just peaceful hunters and gatherers.

  • luke
    December 14, 2015 - 16:39

    @observer This the age of victimhood, - all are striving to bring some kind of misfortune to light. Currently and over the last few years there has been umpteen demands for old deeds to be apologized for, and once done, usually followed by monetary demands. Former Prime Minister Harper made several apologies on behalf of Canadians. I am sure as we speak, there are researchers busy trying to drag up grievances on behalf of one group or an other, - the taxpayer well will never go dry.

  • let it go
    December 14, 2015 - 16:30

    Would it not be more productive to leave the name on things and the statue where it is. It gives an opportunity to mention continuously, the bad deeds of this guy? Eliminating any visible historic reference to this man will burry his misguided deeds and they will soon be forgotten, by all, and his victims died in vain. Think about it----

  • Observer
    December 14, 2015 - 15:35

    Let's keep things balanced here: Cornwallis issued his proclamation in response to the original promise (by the French) that Mi'kmaqs would be paid for British scalps. And they complied readily. If the idea is to expose "brutal acts", let's show both sides of the story. Do I think Cornwallis was right? Absolutely not. But let's not point fingers in one direction only. An atrocity is an atrocity, whether it's Brits scalping Mi'kmaqs or vice versa. If the truth is to be told, tell ALL of it.

  • don
    December 14, 2015 - 15:09

    i can see who is going to run NS will be the Mi’kmaq . that is in the past let it go for God sake we have more worries today then the past. but i guess you do not want to talk about what your for fathers done to the whites. but i do not hear you bringing that up now are you??

    • Better World
      December 14, 2015 - 16:08

      Don't try to defend the indefensible. Also, this is NOT the past, it is a story about a statute that is still there. Your white bias is shining through.

  • W Steele
    December 14, 2015 - 14:54

    The Coast Guard Ship Edward Cornwallis should have a name change also. Imhope this will be done soon.

    • Observer
      December 14, 2015 - 16:25

      I could not disagree more. Not everything the man did was wrong. It is because of him that Halifax exists. Are we also going to erase Columbus' name because the FN were originally called Indians, when ole' Chris C. thought he had landed in India? Get a grip - it was almost 300 YEARS ago! And if he had not founded the city, you would be reading this in French, not English.