In the name of Peace and Friendship: Former Cornwallis Park in Halifax gets a new name
The Halifax Regional Municipality took a significant step on the path toward reconciliation Monday, hosting a renaming ceremony for a park that used to pay tribute to the city's founder, Edward Cornwallis.
A sizable group of largely invited dignitaries gathered under the midday sun for the event, which culminated with the unveiling of a new sign, designating the space as Peace and Friendship Park.
Technically, the official change took effect earlier this month after a unanimous vote by council following a long awaited task force report that came out last year.
The task force, a joint initiative between regional council and the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs, concluded public commemoration of Cornwallis - the British officer accused of practising genocide against the local Indigenous population, is incompatible with current values.
Mi'kmaq Elder and Historian Daniel Paul, who spent decades drawing attention to the issue was happy to attend the event.
"When I set out in the late 1980s to get it done, I had one goal, and that was to stand here today in this park with a new name and the statue gone," Paul told CTV News.
"I feel very happy about it. I think it's an achievement for all communities, not only for the Mi'kmaq community, but for the Caucasian community and for all others in Nova Scotia."
A large statue of Cornwallis, erected as the centrepiece of the park in the 1920s, was hastily removed by city crews in January 2018 amid fear protesters might pull it down.
City officials confirm to CTV News that the statue remains in "secure storage", although it may eventually wind-up in a municipal museum, if the city decides to build one.
Council has directed city staff to undertake a museum strategy.
"I don't really think it should be displayed in public in a manner that idolizes him," said Paul. "Maybe someday in the futures, perhaps a museum."
Speakers at the event noted the name change was a step in the right direction.
"The Mi'kmaq must have a presence throughout, and have opportunities to share," said Chief Deborah Robinson from Acadia First Nation, representing the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs. "Our side of history. Our culture. And our heritage."
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage suggested the name summed up the municipality's strategy toward reconciliation.
"Peace and Friendship Park recognizes we can work together to recognize a wrong, and that we're not bound to our history so much as we are informed by it's lessons," he said.