Parks Canada may consider renaming historic site Port-la-Joye–Fort Amherst

After a P.E.I. Mi'kmaq leader complains to the minister Port-la-Joye–Fort Amherst national historic site should be renamed, Parks Canada says it could be considered.

'Parks Canada is committed to working respectfully with First Nations and honouring their contributions'

A grassy expanse shows indentations where old fortifications once stood.
Parks Canada says it could review the name of Port-la-Joye—Fort Amherst National Historic Site in P.E.I. if it receives a formal request. (Parks Canada)

After a P.E.I. Mi'kmaq leader asked to have the name of Parks Canada national historic site Port-la-Joye–Fort Amherst changed, it appears that's a real possibility. 

The site in Rocky Point, which overlooks the Charlottetown harbour from the southwest, should be renamed to reflect its Mi'kmaq  heritage said Keptin John Joe Sark.

"Gen. Amherst didn't even live here. He didn't even come here. He never visited here, he never came to P.E.I., so why would they bother giving Parks Canada site his name? To me, he was a tyrant and a barbarian," said Sark.

Gen. Jeffrey Amherst distributed blankets contaminated with smallpox to aboriginal people and shouldn't be commemorated on P.E.I. said Sark. Although this is a view debated by historians.

Last month Sark wrote a letter to federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna formally requesting the name of the site be changed.

Monday, Parks Canada responded in an email to CBC News outlining the process for such a change while not committing to it.  

Keptin John Joe Sark is attempting to get Port-la-Joye—Fort Amherst's name changed to reflect its Mi'kmaq heritage. (CBC)

"Should there be a formal request from the public to change the name of the National Historic Site, Parks Canada would engage with the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada for its recommendation," said Barb MacDonald, Parks Canada's external relations manager.

The Board takes into account its naming guidelines which MacDonald said contain four principles: well-established usage, historic usage, communication of the reasons for designation and brevity and clarity.

It's not clear whether Sark's letter to the minister constitutes a "formal request" as laid out in the email. 

Sark was part of an unsuccessful attempt to have the name of the historic site changed once before in 2008.

Parks Canada said since that initial request it has worked to engage with the Mi'kmaq Confederacy of PEI and a Mi'kmaq elder to place interpretive panels and hold special events at the site, although Sark said he himself has not been consulted. 

"Parks Canada recognizes the invaluable contributions of Indigenous People to our work – from establishing and conserving heritage places to enhancing visitor experience on-site by sharing stories and cultural traditions," MacDonald's email states, adding Parks Canada is committed to working respectfully with First Nations and honouring their contributions.