Halifax committee recommends changing name of Cornwallis street, park
HALIFAX -- A Halifax committee has reached a conclusion of what should become of Cornwallis Street, Cornwallis Park, and the statue of Edward Cornwallis. But advocates say the work is far from over.
“Let’s put it this way, I hope it goes in the direction of resolving the matter once and for all,” says Mi’kmaq elder Daniel Paul, a member of the committee.
Paul has been leading the effort to remove the Cornwallis name from public places in Nova Scotia for years.
Edward Cornwallis is credited as being the founder of Halifax, and the first governor of Nova Scotia. But he also committed genocide against Indigenous people, putting a bounty on Mi’kmaq scalps in the 1700s.
“It’s time society stopped honouring individuals who have less than stellar records, let’s put it that way, when it comes to treating the Indigenous people of the Americas,” adds Paul.
The committee is recommending that Cornwallis Park and Cornwallis Street be renamed.
"Edward Cornwallis, based in Mi'kma'ki from 1749 to 1752 as British governor of Nova Scotia, had a career characterized by violence directed against non-English peoples, including Mi'kmaq, and Highland Scots," the report says.
"Although his assumptions of racial superiority were not uncommon for a man of his era and social background," it adds, "continued public commemoration of his role is incompatible with current values."
It also recommends the Cornwallis statue, which was removed from the park bearing his name on January 31, 2018, should not be returned to any position of public commemoration and be kept in city storage until it can be displayed in a museum where historical context can be provided.
“Some wanted it to go in a museum, some wanted it to be completely destroyed, so there was still a range of opinions there too,” says Monica MacDonald, co-chair of the Cornwallis task force.
The committee recommended the park be renamed ‘Peace and Friendship Park’, and the street renamed ‘New Horizons Street’ after the new name for the former Cornwallis Church.
The committee looked at 65 submissions about how the Cornwallis name should be recognized by the city going forward.
“The majority of them did not want the statue to go back up, so 39 of the 65,” says MacDonald. “Fourteen did want it to go back up, either in its original location or another location, and 12 wanted it to go back up in one of those different circumstances that I mentioned.”
Earlier this week, councillors of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality met to discuss new names for what was once known as Cornwallis Street in Sydney, before the signage was removed on June 22.
Halifax city staff are recommending that the committee’s report, and all of the recommendations made in it, be approved.
“It’s entirely up to them what they do with it,” says Paul.
The report will be presented to regional council at Tuesday’s council meeting.