Nova Scotia

Mi'kmaq chiefs want Cornwallis statue 'removed immediately'

The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs is calling on Halifax to remove the statue of Edward Cornwallis immediately, after what it says are unnecessary delays.

Panel to discuss the statue of man who offered a bounty for Mi'kmaq scalps has yet to be formed, chiefs say

Edward Cornwallis founded Halifax for the British in 1749. That same year, he issued a cash bounty on the heads of Mi'kmaq people. (Paul Poirier)

The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs is calling on Halifax regional council to remove the statue of Edward Cornwallis immediately, saying a process to discuss the statue's future is taking too long. 

In a community notice posted to Facebook on Friday, the assembly said it agreed in October to work with council to form a panel to discuss its concerns with the statue, and how the city commemorates history.

"This committee has yet to be formed and yesterday at the assembly meeting, the Chiefs unanimously agreed that this process has taken far too long and have therefore chosen to no longer participate in these panel discussions," the statement read.

Activists protest at the Edward Cornwallis statue in south-end Halifax after city staff covered it with a black sheet in July, 2017. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

In April, Halifax regional council voted to form an expert panel to make recommendations on how to handle city streets, parks and other infrastructure named after Cornwallis. In October, council decided it would select half of the panel's eight members and the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs would recommend the other four people. 

Cornwallis, a military officer who founded Halifax in 1749, issued the so-called scalping proclamation, offering a cash bounty to anyone who killed a Mi'kmaw person.

The statue of Cornwallis in Halifax's south end became a flashpoint during the summer, with protestors demanding the statue be taken down.

Bob Gloade, chief of Millbrook First Nation, said the assembly has been working with councillors and Mayor Mike Savage for months.

"They were supposed to put a committee together. They still haven't formalized an actual committee to deal with the issues," he said. "That's been delayed and delayed. It's frustrating."

Gloade said the assembly has put forward names of people it wants to represent the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia on the committee. 

"They keep coming back with different questions. It's just prolonging the issue and delaying the issue," he said.

Mi'kmaq chiefs have been waiting since October for a panel to meet and decide what should be done with the Cornwallis statue, said Millbrook First Nation Chief Bob Gloade. (CBC)

On Saturday afternoon, Mayor Savage said he hoped to continue the conversation with the chiefs and with the wider Mi'kmaq community. 

"We came up with a policy, a plan that I think had integrity and showed that we were prepared to have a serious conversation. I want to continue the conversation," he said. 

Mayor wants community to be 'more united'

The Cornwallis statue will have to be dealt with "one way or another," Savage said — adding that could mean taking it down, adding other statues to the park or creating a new theme for the entire downtown park. 

He has called the statue an "obvious impediment" to reconciliation before and said that is still what he believes.

Council will have to weigh in on what happens to the panel now, he said.

"I'm in favour of something that leaves the community more united than it is right now," Savage said, adding any solution will have to consider "the spirit of truth and reconciliation."

"If we don't ... I think we've lost an opportunity. The panel in my view was the best way. There may be others. We'll have to figure that out," he said. 

 
Mayor Mike Savage says he'd like to speak to the chiefs and the Mi'kmaq community. (CBC)

Gloade said the statue needs to be removed now and council could still set up the committee to "deal with all the other issues that were brought forward for a number of years." 

"But if they're really committed to building a nation-to-nation relationship and showing a true sign of reconciliation with the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia, let's deal with the one pressing issue that keeps getting continually brought up," he said.  

Savage said because the statue was central to the debate over the use of Cornwallis's name, it wouldn't be possible to separate it from the other discussion of the name's use on other municipal assets. 

About the Author

Marina von Stackelberg is a CBC journalist based in Winnipeg. She previously worked for CBC in Halifax and Sudbury. Connect with her @CBCMarina or marina.von.stackelberg@cbc.ca

With files from Elizabeth Chiu