Nova Scotia

Residents to get a say in renaming Sydney's Cornwallis Street

People who live on Cornwallis Street in Sydney will get to have some input on a new street name after the Cape Breton Regional Municipality removed the street signs in response to a Mi'kmaw elder's threat to take them down himself.

CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke says policy dictates that those affected have input into renaming of local streets

Cape Breton Regional Municipality has sent a list to residents and property owners on Cornwallis Street in Sydney hoping to select a new name now that the road signs are gone. (Brent Kelloway/CBC)

Residents of Cornwallis Street in Sydney, N.S., will have a say in the decision to give their street a new name.

Cape Breton Regional Municipality took the street signs down this week after a Mi'kmaw elder threatened to remove them himself over the weekend.

Mayor Cecil Clarke said several alternative names have already been offered up by the public and people on the street will be asked for their opinions before a new name is chosen.

"I think we have an opportunity to showcase and highlight the best of our community as a result of something that had to bring back a negative from the past and we'll have a positive going forward," he said.

Clarke said CBRM's street renaming policy requires council to consider local opinions.

CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

"We will have a consultation," he said. "We'll be thoughtful about that and we will do it in a way that is respectful of where we currently are and we'll think to the future so the name stands the test of time and meets with community approval."

Clarke said a public meeting is not possible because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Instead, the municipality will send letters to property owners asking for their input.

Mi'kmaw people object to the use of Cornwallis's name because it is a reminder that Edward Cornwallis, founder of Halifax, fought bitterly against the Indigenous residents of what is now Nova Scotia.

In 1749, he issued a so-called scalping proclamation, in which he offered a cash bounty to anyone who killed a Mi'kmaw person.

How street became Cornwallis isn't clear

At Tuesday's council meeting, CBRM solicitor Demetri Kachafanas said he was asked to research the naming of Cornwallis Street after the issue was raised at a tri-council meeting between CBRM, Membertou and the Eskasoni First Nation.

He said there are no records of the street naming at city hall and no historical property records showing anyone named Cornwallis lived there.

Kachafanas said other streets in the neighbourhood are named Cabot and Cartier, so it's reasonable to conclude that Cornwallis Street was named after the historical figure Edward Cornwallis.

However, he said, that's not definitive and further information would have to come from a historian or local archives.

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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 17 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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