Revisiting History: Cornwallis Junior High

This summer in Halifax has become a time of soul-searching with the stripping from a local junior high school of the name Edward Cornwallis, founding father of the city. Today, we explore the debate that has Haligonians asking exactly what Cornwallis represents and whether he should still be remembered proudly.

Today's guest host was Mike Finnerty.

Part One of The Current


It's Wednesday July 6th.

Yesterday, Prince William joined a game of street hockey in Yellowknife.

And, to give the Prince a true sense of the game, Canucks fans then trashed the place.

This is The Current.

Revisiting History: Cornwallis Junior High - Tim Bousquet

The decision's been made, but the debate hasn't died down -- People in Halifax are divided over the renaming of a local junior high school. The school was named after Edward Cornwallis, a British Lieutenant General, who planted the Union flag on Maritime soil in 1749. He was venerated a founding father of Halifax, his name attached to parks, squares, financial centres and schools.

But to the First Nations Mi'kmaq people, Cornwallis was cruel, vile even: in the name of the British King he issued a scalp proclamation, offering 10 guineas bounty for the scalp of each Mi'kmaq, or Savage as the proclamation read.

Two weeks ago, the local school board stripped the name Cornwallis from the school. It's something Mi'kmaq elder Daniel Paul had been pushing for since 1986. We aired a clip with what he told the CBC's As It Happens.

And when the vote was held at the Halifax Regional School Board, it was unanimous. We aired a clip with the voices of Kirk Arsenault, the Mi'kmaq representative on the Halifax Regional School Board, Daniel Paul, and city councillor Darren Fisher. And it seems not everyone thinks the name change is a good idea.

Tim Bousquet does - he's the news editor of The Coast, a weekly newspaper in Halifax, and this morning he was in our studio there.

Revisiting History: Cornwallis Junior High - Desmond Morton

Certainly, Edward Cornwallis's Scalp Proclamation is not the first bit of ugly Canadian history to come under scrutiny. But should we strip buildings and landmarks of the names of historical figures we find unsavoury?

Desmond Morton is a professor emeritus of history at McGill University. He joined us from Georgeville, in Quebec's Eastern Townships.

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