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

The Canadian Press
Published on December 14, 2015

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.

©THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

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.