Halifax council approves renaming Cornwallis Park, creating new museum
'Nobody should walk the streets of our city and avoid monuments they find offensive,' says Mayor Mike Savage
Halifax regional council approved Tuesday all but one recommendation of a task force that looked at how Halifax should commemorate the city's controversial founder, as well as Indigenous history.
Edward Cornwallis, the British governor of Nova Scotia between 1749 and 1752, founded Halifax in 1749. He issued a so-called scalping proclamation that same year against Mi'kmaw men, women and children, and offered a bounty to anyone who carried out the killings.
A statue of Cornwallis in a downtown park named after him was removed in 2018 and will remain in storage until a civic museum is created.
"Nobody should walk the streets of our city and avoid monuments they find offensive," said Mayor Mike Savage. "This is less about history to me than it is about the future."
- Renaming Cornwallis Park the Peace and Friendship Park.
- HRM should work with the Mi'kmaw community to generate a longer list of new potential names for streets and other civic assets, and use the Mi'kmaw language more in naming and signage.
- The city should work with Mi'kmaw organizations to offer educational opportunities outside formal school in areas like treaty education and Mi'kmaw language education.
A number of councillors and the mayor said the vote was an important step toward reconciliation.
Coun. Lisa Blackburn took a hard line against the emails and calls she received from some people upset over the belief the recommendations were removing British history and culture from Nova Scotia.
"Every day at noon when you hear the gun, your British culture is being recognized ... if you've enjoyed a stroll in the Public Gardens, your British culture is being recognized and every time you look up Duke Street and see Citadel Hill hovering in the horizon, your British culture is being recognized," she said.
"You are immersed in it with every breath you take."
Coun. Matt Whitman voted against the recommendations, but did not take part in the debate. Two other councillors objected.
"To have it put in a museum, we should suggest putting it in the stadium because the chances of having either of them are slim and none," said Coun. Steve Adams. "I think this is a missed opportunity."
"I don't believe the statue should never be put in a position of public commemoration again," said Coun. David Hendsbee. "I believe it has a place somewhere in our municipality."
To commemorate Indigenous history, Coun. Sam Austin offered up newly created streets in Dartmouth Cove or green space next to the Sawmill River project.
"Both these areas stand out as excellent opportunities for commemoration because that waterway from our harbour all the way to Maitland was their highway for over 10,000 years," he said.
What change was made
Council only made one change and it dealt with the recommendation on renaming Cornwallis Street and calling it New Horizons Street. The councillor for the area, Lindell Smith, wanted the local community to be consulted first and his amendment received unanimous approval.
Chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé said city staff would be coming to council in early 2021 with a report on the first phase of the civic museum project. There is $2.5 million from the sale of the former Dartmouth City Hall being held in a reserve account for a civic museum.
The CAO also has to do a yearly progress report for councillors on the task force's recommendations.
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