Mi’kmaq Chiefs call for immediate removal of Cornwallis statue

Assembly will no longer participate in Halifax’s panel examining commemoration of the city’s controversial founder.

Mi’kmaq Chiefs call for immediate removal of Cornwallis statue
via edwardcornwallis_wanted on Instagram
This statue of Edward Cornwallis stands in front of the Westin hotel in Halifax's south end.

The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs will no longer work with city hall on a solution to how Halifax commemorates its problematic founder, Edward Cornwallis.

According to a press release sent out Friday afternoon, the Chiefs unanimously agree that the process to form the joint historical committee has “taken far too long and have therefore chosen to no longer participate in these panel discussions.”

Instead, the Assembly is calling for the immediate removal of Edward Cornwallis’s statue and other commemorations bearing his name.

“We have been more than patient to see movement on this,” says Millbrook First Nation Chief Bob Gloade in the release. “The Mi’kmaq need to see action now, and that is why we voted for the statue to be immediately removed.”

“It’s time that Nova Scotia represents all of our histories,” states Chief Deborah Robinson, the Assembly’s urban Mi’kmaq lead, in the same release. “Continuing to celebrate and commemorate only one part of history, and people like Cornwallis, is what we should all want to move away from.”

Years of public conversation around Edward Cornwallis’ treatment of the area’s Indigenous peoples—and the bounty he placed on Mi’kmaq scalps—have produced little concrete change when it comes to the pieces of civic infrastructure named in his honour. While Cornwallis Junior High changed its name several years ago, Cornwallis Street, Cornwallis Park and the Cornwallis statue remain unaltered.

After considerable debate, council approved its commemoration panel last October to re-examine the issue. Half of its members were to have been appointed by HRM. The other half were supposed to have come from a list of nominees submitted by the Assembly of Chiefs.

It's unclear now whether the panel will continue at all, or how city council will respond to the Assembly's call for the statue's removal.

“This is something we are just learning,” writes mayoral spokesperson Shaune MacKinlay in an email. “Mayor Savage will not be speaking to it this evening but will offer comment once we learn more.”

Friday's statements are a more hard-line position from the Assembly than its stance last summer when the Chiefs cautioned against protesters’ plans to topple the statue.

“We have spoken with mayor Savage and told him that the Cornwallis statue does need come down, but it has to be something the Municipality does—in good faith and out of respect of Mi’kmaq concerns,” Chief Wilbert Marshall said back in July. “When we work together, we can go further.”

Up until two weeks ago there was still no official announcement of who had been selected for the panel or when it would begin its work. Municipal spokesperson Erin DiCarlo told The Coast a final report on those members would come to council “in the coming weeks.”

It was expected that any decisions from the Cornwallis panel would take another six to eight months.

The panel's recommendations would be non-binding. As it has from the start of this process, the decision about what to do with Cornwallis will always reside with Halifax council.

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