Halifax mayor cautions against protesters’ plans to tear down Cornwallis statue
Removing statue now will ‘set back progress’ on reconciliation with Mi’kmaq people, says Mike Savage
By Anjuli Patil, CBC News, July 11, 2017
Halifax’s mayor says forcibly removing the statue of Edward Cornwallis in downtown Halifax will set back progress on reconciliation with Mi’kmaq people.
A group of protesters is planning to tear down a statue of Cornwallis in a south-end park this Saturday.
Suzanne Patles started the Facebook group Removing Cornwallis, which says protesters plan to “peacefully remove” the statue that “for too long has been representing genocide in Mikmaki.”
Patles wants the municipality to pledge to remove the statue by Natal Day — Halifax’s birthday — “to commemorate the truthful historic founding of Halifax.”
Otherwise, the protesters will remove it themselves.
“The true origins do not lie with Cornwallis. That is revisionist history,” said Patles, a Mi’kmaq activist.
Removal will ‘set back progress,’ mayor says
Cornwallis, a governor of Nova Scotia, was a British military officer who founded Halifax in 1749. The same year, he issued the so-called scalping proclamation, offering a cash bounty to anyone who killed a Mi’kmaq person.
In a statement issued Tuesday about the protest, Mayor Mike Savage said he wouldn’t stand in the way of a legitimate public protest, but taking down the statue this weekend could have negative consequences.
“If Mi’kmaq activists and their supporters take down the Cornwallis statue before we are given an opportunity to co-operatively forge a better way forward, we will set back progress that is already being made,” he said.
Halifax regional council voted in April to form an expert panel that includes Mi’kmaq voices to advise the municipality on issues stemming from public spaces and monuments named after Cornwallis.
Savage said any action this weekend to remove the statue “is not condoned by the Nova Scotia Assembly of Mi’kmaq Chiefs, by the bands that have land within HRM.”
Savage said Halifax should open itself to other possibilities, like finding a way to share the municipality’s whole history in the park.
Patles said council could be moving faster to reconcile peace.
“What is the Halifax Regional Municipality doing where they had more time to venerate the donair as the official food of Halifax?” Patles asked.
The statue has been vandalized in the past and has been the site of protests.
A demonstration and Indigenous ceremony held at the statue on Canada Day made headlines across the country after protesters clashed with five members of the Proud Boys, so-called fraternal organization of western chauvinists.
Indigenous leader calls for ‘friendship and peace’ ahead of Cornwallis protest
Pam Glode-Desrochers hopes protest to remove statue is a chance for dialogue, not conflict
By Emma Smith, CBC News, July 12, 2017
Indigenous leaders in Nova Scotia are calling for co-operation, not confrontation as protesters prepare to topple the Edward Cornwallis statue in downtown Halifax this weekend.
The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs and the executive director of the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre have joined Halifax Mayor Mike Savage in cautioning protestors about the consequences of forcibly removing the statue.
The mayor said an expert panel to consider what to do with the contentious landmark will be convened by September, but that’s not fast enough for the organizer of the protest.
Suzanne Patles, who created the Facebook event Removing Cornwallis, said if the city doesn’t promise to remove the statue by Natal Day, protesters will do it themselves on Saturday.
Chiefs working with the city
Cornwallis was a British military officer who founded Halifax in 1749, the same year he offered a bounty to anyone who killed a Mi’kmaw person.
Chief Deborah Robinson of the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs said she understands why people want the statue removed.
“But, we want community members to know that we have discussed the removal of the Cornwallis name and statue with Mayor Savage and will continue to push for this,” said Robinson in a statement.
“There is a process to engage with one another, and while this may take time, it does not mean that work is not being done.”
For Pam Glode-Desrochers, the executive director of the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre, the statue and the debate around it can be used to teach people about the dark history of Halifax.
“I worry sometimes that by removing everything people forget, and I don’t want people to forget what has happened. I want people to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” said Glode-Desrochers.
She added that there needs to be more recognition of Mi’kmaq history and culture alongside the landmarks that already exist.
Glode-Desrochers hopes Saturday’s protest is peaceful, and a chance for real dialogue among Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
“We talk about the treaty, friendship and peace. To me, that’s really what we need to be focused on. It’s not tearing things down. It’s not trying to hurt each other,” said Glode-Desrochers.
In April, rookie Coun. Shawn Cleary asked Halifax council to reconsider using Cornwallis’s name after a similar effort failed in 2016.
That process is now underway, he said, even if it’s slow.
“Enough is being done in the sense that we’re moving down this road. I don’t think it’s fast enough, no. I wish we could move faster,” said Cleary.
Cleary said given what happened on Canada Day, when five members of a group called the Proud Boys interrupted an Indigenous ceremony, he’s not surprised the debate over Cornwallis has re-ignited.
Patles, the organizer of the event, said that’s why it’s important to take the statue down.
“Right now a lot of these white-supremist groups are using principles that Cornwallis used as tools of hatred towards the Indigenous people,” she told CBC’s Maritime Noon.
Police keeping an eye on protest
A spokesperson for Halifax Regional Police said they’re aware of the planned protest and they’ll be monitoring it.
As for whether the statue will be allowed to come down, Savage told CBC News the statue is public property and there are laws in place to protect it.
The afternoon event on Saturday will include music and speakers, said Patles, but she wouldn’t comment on how protesters plan to remove the statue.
“People are trying to paint this as a violent event that is going to happen, that a riot is going to ensue in the city. People need to come out and see what exactly is going to happen,” she said.