Halifax says bye bye for good to Cornwallis statue and street name

And deputy mayor Lisa Blackburn dunks on anyone who's still mad about it.

CAORA MCKENNA
Caora McKenna
Four years after Halifax Regional Council narrowly voted against a request from the Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre to consider changing the name of Cornwallis Street, it has accepted a landmark report of recommendations that will see not only the street renamed, but the namesake statue permanently plucked from its pedestal—never to return unless in a place where it's a zillion percent clear that he was a Bad Guy.

The hot saga marred even the best of Halifax's pundits, exposing the racists among us one Facebook comment at a time. But four years has also been enough time for a lot of people to change their minds.
The debate about history and commemoration is not unique to Halifax, and in recent history has rippled across the chunks of land that were ambushed by the British over the past few centuries.

The report is the product of public debates and hard work from the task force on the commemoration of Edward Cornwallis and the recognition and commemoration of Indigenous history, which was formed in order to find an answer to Halifax's question: How do we solve a problem like cornwallis? It outlines 20 recommendations not just on what to do about Edward Cornwallis, but how Halifax should navigate the relationship between commemoration and celebration in the future.

Maggie MacDonald, HRM's managing director of government relations and external affairs, worked extensively on the project, and explained at council's Tuesday meeting a big tenet of the report: That history requires an ongoing effort to understand the past in all its contexts and complexity—including references to surviving evidence–but commemoration is all about the values of today.

Deputy mayor Lisa Blackburn, reliably a good example of speaking only when she has something important to say, gave a definite mic-drop moment when she spoke directly to those who feel the report infringes upon their rights as a white descendent of settlers:


Councillor Lindell Smith made an amendment asking that the name change of Cornwallis Street to New Horizons Street (after the renamed New Horizons Baptist Church) be put on hold, until direct consultation with the African Nova Scotian community can take place. HRM has a long tradition of making decisions about this area and community without sufficient consultation, so Smith's motion is an important one that echoes the whole ethos of the report itself.

For now, the Cornwallis statue will stay in storage, out of sight and out of mind until HRM can get its ducks in a row on the civic museum project—a long-awaited sort-of-funded plan to turn the old Dartmouth museum into a new space that recognizes the undertold histories of HRM. CAO Jacques Dubé said news about that will come with the municipality's overarching museum plan, which should come back to council some point in the first quarter of 2021.


Councillor Tim Outhit was worried that those who don't understand why council is doing this work will be further ostracized by the decision. But he noted that the simple solution to for them to learn about the history. Which starts with reading the report. It's long, so we won't blame you for coming back to it over a week or so, but bookmark this page while you're here and send it to a friend.

To watch our live reporting of the whole meeting on Instagram, click here.

About The Author

Caora McKenna

Caora is the City Editor at The Coast, where she writes about everything from city hall to police and housing issues. She’s been with The Coast since 2017, when she began as the publication’s Copy Editor.

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