Nova Scotia

Cornwallis Street in Sydney will cease to exist in September

Membertou elder Danny Paul pushed for the name change, saying the Cornwallis name is a painful reminder of Halifax founder Edward Cornwallis, who issued a bounty on Mi'kmaw scalps in the 1700s.

CBRM is changing the name to Legacy Street after a Mi'kmaw elder threatened to take down the street signs

All the street signs were removed from atop stop signs at Cornwallis Street intersections in Sydney, N.S., after a Mi'kmaw elder threatened to take them down himself. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Cornwallis Street in Sydney will officially cease to exist in September, at least in name.

Cape Breton Regional Municipality officials have selected Legacy Street as the new name and the Mi'kmaw elder who sparked the change says he's pleased with the result.

"I was impressed by how fast they did things, since I went there to take the signs down and it was a welcoming sight ... to see that they're going to be doing something and they've done something positive," Danny Paul of Membertou said earlier this week.

Paul said the Cornwallis name is a painful reminder of Halifax founder Edward Cornwallis, who issued a bounty on Mi'kmaw scalps in the 1700s.

The Membertou band council has been asking CBRM to change the name for years, but Paul said he became frustrated and threatened to take the street signs down in June.

'Should have been done sooner' 

"It was that kind of initiative that shouldn't have to come to that stage, where people get so frustrated by the situation that they have to take action like that," he said.

"It should have been done sooner."

Within a day, municipal officials took the signs down themselves and launched the renaming process.

"They did well by Legacy because it applies to the situation that they have there with how the street is to be named and it's fitting, I think, for people like Ray Paruch or Campy Crawford, the names that came up for that street name," Paul said.

"I think Legacy would be quite suitable for that situation."

Other possibilities 

Ray Paruch was the longtime municipal councillor for the area who died of cancer earlier this year. Carl "Campy" Crawford was a well-known figure in Whitney Pier and the first Black police officer in Nova Scotia.

CBRM officials came up with a list of 29 names, including Paruch and Campy Crawford, and sent it out to property owners and residents on Cornwallis Street and asked them to pick just one name.

Municipal staff then took the three names with the most votes, put them in a hat and drew one name.

Membertou Chief Terry Paul says the renaming "serves as a reminder that we can come together to heal hurtful memories of the past and ensure they do not go with us into the future." (Yvonne LeBlanc-Smith/CBC)

This week, the municipality informed property owners and residents that the new name would officially become Legacy Street on Sept. 29.

In a news release posted on Facebook, Membertou Chief Terry Paul said Legacy Street is a "fitting name for the history and legacies of many notable Cape Bretoners who have contributed positively to Unama'ki throughout the years."

He said the renaming "serves as a reminder that we can come together to heal hurtful memories of the past and ensure they do not go with us into the future."

"From today forward, our people will no longer have to drive past the street that bears the name of an undeserving man; rather, we can feel supported in knowing that our voices have been heard and respected."

Not changing history

Danny Paul said he took action out of frustration, but did it so his grandchildren would not have to see the Cornwallis name honoured publicly.

However, he said, changing the street name does not change history. People can still read about Cornwallis in history books.

"If what he did was barbaric tactics, then, you know, I think you better change your view a little bit on what history actually is," Paul said.

"It's still documented and if you want to learn something about Cornwallis, read something about it."

MORE TOP STORIES

About the Author

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years. He has spent the last 16 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

now