PEI

Council of Canadians backing name change of Port-la-Joye—Fort Amherst

The Council of Canadians is putting its support behind a Mi'kmaq Grand Council member's petition to change the name of the Port-la-Joye—Fort Amherst National Historic Site.

'Changing a name is a very basic and reasonable request to make,' says Brent Patterson

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)

The Council of Canadians is putting its support behind a Mi'kmaq Grand Council member's petition to change the name of the Port-la-Joye—Fort Amherst National Historic Site.

The park is named after General Jeffrey Amherst. Historians have found evidence in correspondence with others in the British military in the 1700s that Amherst advocated spreading the smallpox virus to aboriginal people using blankets. However, there is no direct evidence Amherst handed out smallpox-infected blankets himself.

John Joe Sark began an unsuccessful attempt to change the name in 2008.

Last month, he once again made a formal request to the federal government to reconsider.

The issue was brought to the Council of Canadians by a P.E.I. board member, who sent the federal government a letter echoing Sark's request.

Brent Patterson is political director for the Council of Canadians. He says Amherst should not be honoured with a park in his name.

"Changing a name is a very basic and reasonable request to make, certainly in terms of the present day and exercising some sensitivity and respect," said Patterson.

Parks Canada says it's looking into the letter from the Council of Canadians.

Officials say final decisions about site names have to go through the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

The site served as a port of entry from 1720 to 1770 for settlers to P.E.I. under French and British occupation.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story referred to John Joe Sark as a P.E.I. Native Council member. In fact, he's speaking on this issue as a member of the Mi'kmaq Grand Council.
    Feb 25, 2016 10:41 AM AT
  • A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Amherst distributed blankets contaminated with smallpox to aboriginal people in the 1700s. In fact, there is no direct evidence he distributed them himself.
    Feb 25, 2016 11:39 AM AT

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