PEI

Petition presented to Ottawa against Amherst name on historic site

A petition was presented to the House of Commons Friday asking for the name Fort Amherst to be removed from the Skmaqn—Port-la-Joye—Fort Amherst National Historic Site.

'We're not trying to erase their history, but we should keep them in the history books'

Parks Canada added the Mi'kmaq name Skmaqn, meaning the waiting place, in February, but Keptin John Joe Sark didn't think that was enough. (CBC)

A petition was presented to the House of Commons Friday asking for the name Fort Amherst to be removed from the Skmaqn—Port-la-Joye—Fort Amherst National Historic Site.

"I think it's an insult to have a Mi'kmaq name standing beside Amherst's name," said Keptin John Joe Sark, a Mi'kmaq elder and the man who started the petition.  

Sark has been advocating for the name to be taken off the site for years, arguing that General Jeffery Amherst's intent was to exterminate Indigenous people.

Scholars have long debated Amherst's actions during his service, until evidence was found that he advocated the use of biological warfare — through smallpox infected blankets — to kill Indigenous peoples.

Parks Canada added the Mi'kmaq name Skmaqn, meaning the waiting place, in February, but Sark didn't think that was enough.

"We're not trying to erase their history, but we should keep them in the history books. That's where they belong, not on National Parks," he said.

Charlottetown MP thinks name change is enough

Charlottetown MP Sean Casey presented the petition, but explained that petitions are a part of regular procedure and the member presenting does not have to advocate for the cause.

Casey said he thinks the name change is enough. 

"Government essentially responded to a request from the elected leadership of the Mi'kmaq people in Prince Edward Island to add an additional name and not to remove Fort Amherst and I'm entirely comfortable and supportive with the decision the government made," he said.

'I doubt that this petition in and of itself will make any difference, unless that is the will through the formal channels,' Sean Casey says. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

The petition will be sent to the environment department, Casey said, which is responsible for Parks Canada. Although, Casey said he doubts the petition will change things.

"I doubt that this petition in and of itself will make any difference, unless that is the will through the formal channels," he said. "This is an opportunity for the people who are unhappy with the decision to project their voice."

Sark gathered 620 signatures on an online petition site, but the petition presented in Parliament contained just 25 signatures.

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Natalia Goodwin

Video Journalist

Natalia is a video journalist in P.E.I. She has also worked for CBC N.L.