APTN National News
Halifax regional council passed a motion on Tuesday to form a panel that will look at whether or not to keep commemorating Edward Cornwallis.
“People are uncomfortable with change, but I think we are moving forward, this is a positive thing that we’re doing,” said Coun. Shawn Cleary. “We’re building a new relationship with the Indigenous community here in Canada and I think in Halifax we need to take that step as well.”
Two weeks ago, Halifax’s first Indigenous poet laureate, Rebecca Thomas, presented a poem to council titled “Not Perfect” which moved Cleary to put forward the motion that same day.
“A lack of perfection is a poor excuse to keep Cornwallis enshrined, regardless of his abuse; please, cut him loose,” Thomas’s poem said.
Edward Cornwallis was the founder and governor of Halifax in 1749. He was responsible for issuing a bounty on Mi’kmaq scalps.
Mi’kmaq historian and author of “We Were Not the Savages” Daniel Paul, has pushed for decades to stop commemorating Cornwallis with street names and statues.
“What I’m saying is they should stop idolizing him. That’s it period. You don’t see the Germans idolizing Adolf Hitler, do you?” said Paul before last year’s debate.
Only one councillor voted no. Last year, a similar motion put forward by Coun. Wayne Mason was ultimately voted down.
Cleary called last year’s discussions divisive.
“Clearly this is a far more progressive council than what we had previously,” He said.
Many councillors echoed Cleary’s sentiment of being emotionally moved by Thomas’ words during the discussion.
“We need to have well thought-out, meaningful conversation about the issue of not just Edward Cornwallis but the issue of how we commemorate folks in general,” said Coun. Lindell Smith. “This is just one way of
saying we want to open up the conversation, but we also recognize that Edward Cornwallis may have caused some hardship for our community.”
Cleary and Smith hope both sides of the controversy will be represented on the panel.
“The makeup of it is going to be very important to the conversation,” said Smith. “I want to see the folks that believe that some of the things we talked about didn’t happen, but I also want to see people who will bring
different facts saying it did happen.”
For Cleary this is a step in the right direction.
The timeline for creating the panel of experts hasn’t been set, and Cleary says it will take some time.