'Why is this monster's name still up?': N.S. community protests street named after Edward Cornwallis
SYDNEY, N.S. -- In 2020, National Indigenous People's Day holds special significance in the Maritimes following police shootings of two First Nations people in June. With police brutality and systemic racism becoming a wide-spread conversation, many people say it's time to reconsider which historical figures are celebrated and commemorated in public spaces.
"I'm taking it down," said Mi'kmaq elder, Daniel Paul of a street sign bearing the name of Edward Cornwallis.
On Sunday in Sydney, N.S., Paul and members of Membertou First Nation were prepared to tear down the sign displaying the name of the Halifax founder who put a bounty on Mi'kmaq scalps over 200 years ago.
"I don't want my grandchildren asking later on, 'why is this monster's name still up in the city? After all the atrocities he's committed, how come they're honouring him?'" said Paul. "It's not right."
Moments after arriving at the sign, the group was met by police. While things remained friendly, Paul wore a shirt inspired by the recent deaths in New Brunswick of Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi – who were both shot by police.
The tragic deaths of Moore and Levi were on the minds of many marking National Indigenous People's Day across the nation.
"It becomes difficult after you see someone dying unnecessarily – just because of their colour," said protester, Karina Matthews-Denny. "It's very heartbreaking – but we can pull together.
Like many marking the day, protesters had to physically distance due to COVID-19; however, the message was perhaps heard louder than in most years. Ensuring that First Nations voices continue to be amplified, Matthews-Denny says she hopes Indigenous history, issues and culture will become part of regular classroom curriculum.
"I would say education would be the best way to go," said Matthews-Denny. "Starting right from kindergarten."
Despite the protests on Cornwallis Street, the street sign didn't come down on Sunday. However, Paul suggested a name he'd like to see grace the street in the future.
"I made a proposal to them that it should be renamed 'Donald Marshall Junior A'wti,'" said Paul. "Because of the contributions he made to our whole nation."
Meanwhile, police and protesters have agreed to have further discussions concerning the name of the street sign.