Letter to HRM on Cornwallis

May 16, 2016

Mayor Mike Savage
Halifax Regional Municipality
1841 Argyle Street, P.O. Box 1749
Halifax, NS   B3J 3A5

Dear Mayor Savage,

RE:  HRM decision on Cornwallis statue and street name

As Co-Chairs of the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs (Assembly), we would like to address your Council’s recent decision not to remove Governor Edward Cornwallis’ name from city landmarks.

We reflect on the motion made by your Council in December 2015 where you stated that, “[we] stand together today in committing to a new equal partnership with Aboriginal people in Canada; one based on truth, dignity and mutual respect.”

Although the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) and the Assembly have been building a strong working relationship, we feel that your Council’s decision on this matter was a step back from your prior commitments.  The concerns brought forth by the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre, in their April 4, 2016 letter, should not have been dismissed in haste.  These concerns were genuine, reflective of the broader Mi’kmaw Nation and in the spirit of true reconciliation, one that we hope your Council would take a deeper look at, out of ‘dignity and mutual respect’.

Learning about history is not only about acknowledging where we come from, but also about recognizing how to move forward.  History is formed by people; in this case, Cornwallis’ history was not only about building a city, but equally about devastating a Nation.  We cannot change history, but we can make a conscious effort to not honour and celebrate malicious wrong doings.  Cornwallis’ legacy cannot be removed from the history books, nor is anyone requesting this; what is being asked is that a man, who was known for his racist policies towards Mi’kmaq, Acadians and French, not be featured for public honour.

In December 2015, the Honorable Stephen MacNeil, Premier of Nova Scotia, stated in the House of Assembly that HRM and Nova Scotia should work to find “…a way that we can ensure that we reflect our history and not having the founding people, the original people, the people in Mi’kmaq territory to be offended by how we reflect that history.”

We strongly believe that Cornwallis’ political acumen can be acknowledged in places other than on city streets and park monuments.  Mi’kmaq and Treaty Education is a major undertaking for the Province of Nova Scotia and the Mi’kmaq; it is important that we have the support of all leaders and educators.   For your Council, re-evaluating this decision would be the best way forward not only for the Mi’kmaq, but for all Nova Scotians.

Yours in Recognition of Mi’kmaq Rights and Title,

Chief Terrance Paul & Chief Sidney Peters
Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs