Nova Scotia

Mi'kmaq land recognition could soon open Amherst council meetings

Amherst town council has asked staff to come up with a policy on territorial announcements for the start of municipal meetings that acknowledge the Mi'kmaq.

Town also considering what to do about its controversial namesake

Staff are coming up with a policy on territorial announcements for the start of municipal meetings that acknowledge the Mi'kmaq. (Robert Short/CBC)

Amherst town council has asked staff to come up with a policy for the start of municipal meetings that acknowledge they are happening on traditional Mi'kmaq territory. 

The request was unanimously endorsed at a council meeting Monday night.

Coun. Jason Blanch thinks an announcement — pointing out that Amherst is located on traditional Mi'kmaq territory and mentioning peace and friendship treaties that were signed — could be an important step toward truth and reconciliation.

"I think that's the most important thing is that we are educating our community about our history and, through that, building respect," said Blanch.

Lord Amherst was a British military commander, who many historians say wanted to murder Indigenous people by infecting blankets with smallpox. (Thomas Gainsborough/National Portrait Gallery)

Blanch is not sure how long it will take to come up with an announcement policy, but he would like one to be ready in time for an annual powwow that happens in the Amherst area in June.

"When I shared the motion and explained it, I had only positive comments from the community [on Facebook]," he said.

Meanwhile, a draft of a staff report on the name Amherst has been circulated as an internal document to get feedback from councillors.

Lord Amherst is a British military commander who in the 1700s sent blankets infected with smallpox to Indigenous people.

Amherst officials were asked in the fall of 2017 to look at how other communities are handling the move to rename towns, streets and monuments.

Greg Herrett, Amherst's chief administrative officer, said it's possible that both the announcement report and the naming report could be ready for debate at the same time before the end of June.

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