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Cornwallis renaming is the right thing to do

We shouldn't honour the architects of genocide.


Edward Cornwallis
  • Edward Cornwallis
I hadn’t reported on the proposal to change the name of Cornwallis Junior High because I was on vacation, in Germany, when the proposal was put forward, and so wasn’t in a position to interview people. I did, however, follow the story on local news sites, and was pleased to see the school board unanimously approve the change. But I was immensely surprised to come back home and find wide disapproval of the change. It makes me sad, to be honest.

The issue is straight-forward: children, of all ethnicities, are attending or interacting with (via sports teams, for example) a school named in honour of a person who promoted racially based genocide. This is simply wrong. It’s wrong to subject Mi’kmaq children to this---honouring the murderer of their forebears is necessarily an emotional and, yes, oppressive act; it undermines their self-worth and expectations that they can fairly and fully lead successful lives in a society dominated by Europeans. But it’s also unfair to subject children of European extraction to attending/visiting a school named in honour of a mass murderer; white kids implicitly learning to celebrate the genocide of natives will not likely be agents of fairness and democratic values---and their own lives are lesser for it.

It was reasonable and right for the Mi’kmaq community to bring this issue forward. They are a large community, who have suffered a series of historic wrongs, arguably right into the present, and they asked for a small act, not of redress, but of simple acknowledgement of past wrongs done onto them. It really comes down to this: why not change the name? Are we willing to acknowledge that a community says with good cause it is negatively impacted and we can readily address their concern, or not? Are we kind, or not?

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