Renewed calls for Cornwallis statue removal following Charlottesville protests
Confederate statues and monuments are being taken down in the United States after a white supremacist rally turned violent in Virginia over the weekend.
In Halifax, there are renewed calls to remove the statue of the city's colonial founder Edward Cornwallis. Mayor Mike Savage says that's not happening right away.
“This issue for me is really important because it's an impediment to us having a new relationship with our First Nations and the Mi'kmaq here in HRM,” Savage says.
That's precisely the point for many who attended a rally at Cornwallis Park Tuesday night, calling once again for the statue to be removed.
“That deserves to be in a museum, but not in the middle of our city,” says rallier Jessica Reddick.
Many attendees say there are parallels between the calls for removal of confederate monuments in the United States and the calls to remove Cornwallis, who ordered a bounty on Mi'kmaq scalps in the 1700s.
South of the border, four confederate statues were removed in Baltimore Tuesday night, days after city council voted to do so. Two more were removed in Gainesville, Fla. Protesters toppled a seventh in North Carolina.
In Montreal, the Hudsons Bay Company removed a plaque on Wednesday commemorating confederate president Jefferson Davis.
But military historian John Boileau says Halifax's founder should remain where he is.
“Anyone who doesn't understand that the American Civil War and the founding of Halifax are completely separate issues doesn't know their history,” he says.
Boileau has called for a Mi'kmaq monument to be added to Cornwallis Park instead.
“I've heard from people saying you can't deny history, you can't take the statue down. I've heard from people saying you can't deny history, take the statue down,” says Savage.
Several weeks ago, Indigenous groups and others demonstrated on the same location, calling for the removal of the statue. They were confronted by several people who were later identified as members of a group called Proud Boys.
On Monday, a Mount St. Vincent University authority on the evolution of certain social movements – in particular white nationalism – spoke to CTV News about the rise of the so called alt-right. CTV News contacted the Proud Boys for their response. They declined an interview, but did provide this statement:
“We are a multiracial, inclusive fraternal organization. We have members from all races, religions and sexuality. We are not racists. We are not white supremacists. We do not speak to the media because you are fake news, you lie and you misrepresent facts to fit a factually incorrect narrative. If you refer to us as racists, we will not hesitate in considering legal action.”
For now, council is awaiting a staff report next month that will appoint a panel to look into the Cornwallis’ name.
Mayor Savage says he thinks council will ultimately decide whether the statue will remain, and he believes it will be made this year.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Sarah Ritchie.