In my time living in Halifax, I can say for certain two things: Our poet laureate position is incredibly valuable and our public conversation about heritage is terrible. These two things together make me certain that we need a historian laureate.
Cornwallis—that thing we talk about without actually talking about. The conversation about Ol ’Corny has been rough. The statue has taken on several layers of symbolic meaning in our quaint local culture-wars. Tensions boil while the city is outsourcing the conversation about the statue’s fate to local Mi’kmaq authorities. I’m not here to say settlers should shove our noses into the process. I am here to say we need to find a way to actually discuss these things now and in the future as a community.
Really, who do you ask about Cornwallis? Clerks@halifax.ca will answer your questions as much as they can, your
Discussing the statue is difficult. It requires historical context (both of the man and the sculpture), it requires untangling Indigenous rights, reconciliation, colonial wartime, identity, values, morality and worst: municipal politics. Halifax needs well-meaning people with the abilities to work out these problems and to discuss them with knowledge and authority. Halifax needs a historian laureate.
Imagine with me: A young PhD graduate with ambition and education being handed the blessing of
Other cities have had success doing the same. I listen to the former Edmonton laureate’s podcast—Let’s Find Out—where he navigates historical questions with citizens who contact him. I’ve met with Calgary’s former laureate who used to wander the streets in period costume—answering questions and sharing their love for the city. We’re a city with history and we have these awesome people here, so let’s empower them.
Halifax is an old city with a dense history and incredible opportunities to share it amongst ourselves. Like them or not, our poet laureates have affected this city and brought new ideas to our culture about who we are and what we could be. I want that conversation for our history and I think a historian laureate could make a better Halifax.