Nova Scotia

Cornwallis statue removal from park should be considered, says premier

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says he's ready to lobby the municipality of Halifax to remove a statue of Edward Cornwallis from a downtown park.

Governor Edward Cornwallis offered a cash bounty in 1749 to anyone who killed a Mi'kmaq person

A statue of Edward Cornwallis, Halifax's founder, was erected in the 1930s. (CBC)

Premier Stephen McNeil says he is ready to ask Halifax city hall to consider having a statue of city founder Edward Cornwallis removed from a downtown park.

In fact, the premier told members of the Nova Scotia Legislature on Friday morning he had already acted to remove a sign for the Cornwallis River, as a result of a request by Mi'kmaq elder Dan Paul.

"He made a request of me when it came to the Cornwallis River as it goes through the First Nation community in the Annapolis Valley, in Cambridge," said the premier.

"Felt it was inappropriate that there would be a sign there that recognized Cornwallis very close to that Mi'kmaq community. I called him a few days later having had an opportunity look at it and had those signs removed."

Controversy over the naming of Cornwallis Park in Halifax has garnered much protest over the years. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Paul said the move spoke volumes to him about the kind of man McNeil is.

"I think the premier is a man of his word," he told CBC Radio's Maritime Noon. "I mentioned the signs to him at a meeting. He told me he would go have a look, and then he called me up and said they would be removed and now they're gone."


Paul said if the bounty had just been on Mi'kmaq warriors, it would be viewed differently, but the bounty was also on women and children and he says that amounts to genocide.

"I think it's hideous in this day and age for a civilized population to be idolizing a man who made an attempt to exterminate a race of people," he said.

"You can't continue to idolize people that have injured a great part of your population."

Cornwallis, a governor of Nova Scotia, was a British military officer who founded Halifax in 1749. He issued the so-called scalping proclamation the same year, in which he offered a cash bounty to anyone who killed a Mi'kmaq person.

The premier's comments Friday were sparked by a question from Progressive Conservative MLA Allan MacMaster, who said a statue of Cornwallis located in the park off Barrington Street near the Via Rail station should come down.

'We all know the mark Cornwallis made'

"Racism, whether it happened 250 years ago or today, brings people down and we all know the mark Cornwallis made on our province," MacMaster said.

"I think he should be remembered — he's part of our history — but I don't think he should be honoured in a park."

McNeil wasn't ready to go that far, but he did say the province needs to be mindful of how history is remembered.

"Is there a way that we can ensure that we reflect our history and not having the founding people, the original people, the people in Mi'kmaq territory to be offended by how we reflect that history."

Paul said he agreed that Cornwallis shouldn't be erased from the history books.

"He is part of the history of this area, bad or good, he's still part of it. He should be acknowledged for that part. But it should also be taught some of the atrocities that he committed."