Nova Scotia

Halifax council creates committee on Cornwallis, Indigenous history

Halifax regional council has created the advisory committee that will explore what to do about the Edward Cornwallis statue.

Committee to have eight members; names have not yet been released publicly

Edward Cornwallis founded Halifax in 1749. Later that year, he issued a bounty on the scalps of Mi'kmaq people. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

Halifax regional council has created the advisory committee that will explore what to do about the Edward Cornwallis statue and how to recognize and commemorate Indigenous history.

"This is historic for us," said Coun. Shawn Cleary. "This is another step in rebuilding a relationship that for the past 400 years has not been a terribly good relationship."

The committee will have eight members, though their names have not yet been released publicly. Half the members will be selected by regional council and the other half will be recommended by the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs. 

At their meeting on Tuesday, councillors discussed behind closed doors who should sit on the committee.

Focus of controversy

The statue of Cornwallis in downtown Halifax has prompted protests because of the way Cornwallis treated the Mi'kmaq when he helped found Halifax for the British. Cornwallis issued a scalping proclamation in 1749 offering a cash bounty to anyone who killed a Mi'kmaq person.

A crowd of about 100 people gathered at the statue of Edward Cornwallis in Halifax's Cornwallis Park on July 15, 2017. (Steve Berry/CBC)

Earlier this year, residents gathered at the statue, calling for it to be removed. The municipality temporarily covered the monument in a black cloth.

Need for broader discussion

Some members of council see the need for a broader discussion.

"This is about bringing people together and finding a solution that makes everyone a winner," said Coun. Steve Streatch.

Municipal staff say the committee could come up with recommendations about the Cornwallis statue in six to eight months, but suggestions for the broader issues will take longer.

Not all council members on board

But not all councillors think creating an advisory committee is a good idea.

"Generally speaking, I think there's going to be far more divisiveness," said Steve Adams.

Adams and Matt Whitman were the only two councillors who voted against the motion. Whitman said he had a number of concerns, including the recommendation to pay members of the advisory committee an honorarium.