Nova Scotia

CBRM wants 266-year-old scalping proclamation removed from the books

CBRM's mayor and council have voted unanimously to ask the Governor General to repeal a 1756 proclamation that offers a bounty for each Mi'kmaw scalp.

Council has voted unanimously to ask Governor General to have proclamation repealed

CBRM staff recently took part in what's known as a KAIROS blanket exercise to help understand the perspective of Indigenous people. KAIROS is an international human rights and ecological justice organization. (Tanya Johnson-MacVicar)

The mayor and council of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality have voted unanimously to ask Gov. Gen. Mary Simon to have a 1756 proclamation offering a bounty for Mi'kmaw scalps repealed.

Mayor Amanda McDougall said she found out the proclamation is still on the books after taking part in a learning exercise arranged by Tanya Johnson-MacVicar, the municipality's L'nu adviser.

McDougall said while the Peace and Friendship Treaties render the proclamation inoperative, it "shook" her to know that the language still exists.

"What if somebody could use that as a loophole in some sort of horrendous act?" she said. "Why not use our powers as elected officials to influence policy and be advocates?"

CBRM Mayor Amanda McDougall says she was shaken after realizing the proclamation remains on the books. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Johnson-MacVicar said McDougall indicated on the morning after the exercise that she would put forward a motion to have the proclamation repealed.

"I didn't think that it would happen as fast as it did," Johnson-MacVicar told CBC Radio's Mainstreet Nova Scotia on Thursday.

"It's because of the people that I work with, there really is a thirst to find out what can be done and how that reconciliation can be done."

The facilitators of the CBRM blanket exercise, from left, Kateri Stevens, Angelina Amaral, Tanya Johnson-MacVicar and Maxine Stevens. (Kateri Stevens)

Johnson-MacVicar said elders have been trying for decades to have the proclamation removed. 

Christopher McCreery, the private secretary to Nova Scotia Lt.-Gov. Arthur LeBlanc, said in an email he was not aware of the council vote, but added the Governor General and lieutenant-governor would have to be given specific direction from the prime minister or the premier.

"Any action taken by the Crown in right of Canada to apologize, acknowledge, revoke or undertake any action would be done on advice of the duly elected government," McCreery wrote.

Simon is Canada's first Indigenous Governor General. Her office did not respond to a request for comment.

Nicolas Moquin, a spokesperson for Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, said in an email the "horrific order" was superseded by the Peace and Friendship Treaties.

Mayor Amanda McDougall and L’nu advisor Tanya Johnson-MacVicar spoke with host Jeff Douglas about what led up to Cape Breton municipal council's unanimous decision to ask the Governor General to repeal the proclamation.

Nova Scotia's then governor, Charles Lawrence, also signed a proclamation in 1760 ordering a cessation of hostilities between British officers and personnel against Indigenous people in the colony, the email said.

"As such, the order was not in effect at Confederation and did not become and is not a law of Canada," Moquin said.

"Both the Peace and Friendship Treaties and 1760 proclamation had the result of making the 1756 proclamation inoperative. It has no force or effect in law."

With files from Mainstreet Nova Scotia and Tom Ayers