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Mi’kmaw Chiefs asked to rename CCGS Edward Cornwallis
HALIFAX -- HALIFAX -- The Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) Edward Cornwallis, named after the controversial founder of Halifax, will be given a new name in partnership with the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia.
In a release Tuesday, the minister in charge of the Canadian Coast Guard says renaming the Cornwallis is another step in writing the wrongs of Canada’s past.
“As we make way for a new name, one chosen in partnership with the Mi’kmaq people, we have a new opportunity to shine a light on a leader whose actions embody the values we hold today,” Bernadette Jordan says.
The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs is being asked to recommend a new name for the icebreaker, which will be announced later this year.
“Today we are witnessing reconciliation in action,” Chief Terry Paul of Membertou said in the release. “The Mi'kmaq have called this land home since time immemorial, however, the dark legacy of early settlers continues to serve as a painful reminder of the inequalities that still exist today.”
In 1749, Cornwallis was governor of Nova Scotia when he issued a reward for Mi'kmaq scalps, prompting calls -- centuries later -- for his name to be removed from schools, rivers, streets, parks and monuments.
Cornwallis is perhaps best known as the man who founded Halifax in 1749, but his mission to establish a garrison town included eliminating Indigenous resistance and, at one point, approving a scalping proclamation to "take or destroy the savages."
The federal government says the colonial governor tried to drive the Mi'kmaq from their lands through "barbaric measures."
Paul, who is co-chairman of the assembly, described Cornwallis as a monster.
"He was a murderer," Paul said in an interview. "Who in their right mind would want to commemorate a monster like that? That's what our feelings are in the raw. And this is why we are very grateful that the minister and the federal government has taken those steps to remove this name."
Paul said the government's decision to recognize the dark legacy of early settlers was an example of "reconciliation in action."
"By renaming the ship, we don't feel that this is erasing history," said Paul. "In fact, it is acknowledging the horrific history of injustice and inequality that took place in our country's past -- some of which still exists today .... Removing Cornwallis's name is a step towards healing for many of us."
In Nova Scotia, Cornwallis's name has already been removed from a street in Sydney and a church and a school in Halifax.
In January 2018, a large statue of the man was removed from a park in downtown Halifax. At the time, Mayor Mike Savage said the bronze figure was an impediment to forging respectful relationships with the Mi'kmaq.
Before it was pulled off its pedestal, the statue had become a flashpoint for protests. A municipal committee with Indigenous members is in the process of deciding what to do with the statue.
"Cornwallis's legacy does not reflect the values Canadians hold today, and his name is a painful reminder to many Indigenous peoples of the racism and inequality their ancestors endured and that many still face today," the Fisheries and Oceans Department said Tuesday in a statement.
The renaming will follow Coast Guard’s formal policy of naming ships to honour former leaders who have made significant contributions to country.
The light icebreaker entered service in 1986, and calls the Canadian Coast Guard base in Dartmouth home.
In early March, a contract for $12.1 M was awarded to Shelburne Ship Repair, of Shelburne, Nova Scotia, for vessel life extension work on the ship. This work is expected to be completed in early 2021.
Minister Jordan will announce the name of vessel before it leaves the Shelburne Shipyard later this year.
With files from The Canadian Press.