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UPDATE: Mi'kmaq keptin returns Order of P.E.I. over Fort Amherst, other indigenous issues

Mi'kmaq Keptin John Joe Sark
Mi'kmaq Keptin John Joe Sark

John Joe Sark has handed in his Order of P.E.I. in protest of the province’s silence on Park Canada’s decision for a park to keep a controversial British general’s name.

Sark, a member of the Mi’kmaq Nation traditional government, relinquished his medal at the legislature last Tuesday.

He says the move was in protest to the province failing to urge Parks Canada to remove the name of a military officer who wanted to kill aboriginal people with smallpox.

An excerpt from a meeting of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada last September recommended that parks officials consult with the M’kmaq community to see if there is a historic name for Rocky Point, where the Port-la-Joye – Fort Amherst historic site is located.

Sark says he has submitted Mi’kmaq names for Parks Canada to consider, but he says he won’t be satisfied until the name of General Jeffrey Amherst is scrubbed from the historic site.

Sark has been campaigning for the name change since 2008, arguing that keeping the name is insulting because Amherst’s goal was to wipe out aboriginal peoples.

The board said it discussed Sark’s request at length but ultimately determined that Amherst’s name should remain because of the location’s historical ties to the British government.

Sark says he wants the province to write a letter to Parks Canada in support of having Amherst’s name removed.

He adds his protest also extends to the province not dealing with a host of indigenous issues in P.E.I., notably lack of consultation on land issues.

The Mi'kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. said the province failed in its constitutional duty to get consent from the Mi'kmaq in the sale of provincial Crown land that includes the Mill River Golf Course and Mill River Provincial Park.

“There are a lot of indigenous issues that they are not dealing with,’’ says Sark.

When asked for an interview with Premier Wade MacLauchlan on Sark’s decision to hand in his Order of P.E.I. over the province’s silence on the controversy, The Guardian received the following statement from the premier’s office:

“Government respects that it is the mandate of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada to advise the Government of Canada, through the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, on matters related to nationally significant aspects of Canada's history. The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada has reviewed Dr. Sark’s request in accordance with federal policy and legislation, and Parks Canada is now considering whether the official name could be changed to include a Mi’kmaq name.’’

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