The 180

Opinion: Cornwallis paid people to kill the Mi'kmaq, but Halifax should still remember him

Edward Cornwallis has been associated with Halifax since 1749, but recently a debate broke out about if the city should continue to remember its founding father. The very year he founded the city, Cornwallis called for the scalps of the local Mi'kmaq and while that is unthinkable today, John Boileau says to remove his name is to try to erase history, and that he argues is a slippery downhill slope from there.
A statue of Edward Cornwallis stands facing England - with his back to Halifax - in Cornwallis Park. (Canadian Press)

Cornwallis is a name you will come across several times in Halifax. 

But recently the city found itself in a debate about whether it should continue to remember Edward Cornwallis — its founding father.

Cornwallis, a governor of Nova Scotia, was a British military officer who founded Halifax in 1749. He also issued a proclamation that same year, in which he offered a cash bounty to anyone who killed a Mi'kmaq person.

As a result, Cornwallis is seen by many as a racist unworthy of commemoration and there have been several calls in recent years for his name to be removed from city properties. 

But John Boileau says to erase Cornwallis from the city's history would be a mistake with severe consequences. 

Where does it stop? Do we end up with every place in Canada being named 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, red, green, black, elm, oak, maple so we don't offend anybody? Where does it stop?- John Boileau

The retired colonel and member of the Halifax Military Heritage Preservation Society also argues it is akin to rewriting history, and suggests instead that the community work to include all of the city's founding fathers. 

If the Mi'kmaq community and the Acadian community want to put statues up ...what a great inclusiveness and what a great educational experience to show the folks who founded this province.- John Boileau

Listen to the full interview by clicking the play button above.