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Scrubbing the name of Halifax founder Edward Cornwallis to be put to a vote

The statue of Edward Cornwallis stands in Cornwallis Part in downtown Halifax. Reynold Gregor/Global News

Halifax council will consider a proposal to scrub the city of the name of its controversial founder, Edward Cornwallis.

Councillor Waye Mason plans to bring forward a motion on municipal “commemorations” of Nova Scotia’s first governor, including a park and a street bearing Cornwallis’s name.

READ MORE: ‘It represents ignorance’: Cornwallis statue could be removed from Halifax park

A spokesperson for Mayor Mike Savage said Thursday he supports the motion’s introduction, which will likely come next week.

The proposal comes in response to campaigns throughout the province to remove Cornwallis’s name from public places in light of his treatment of indigenous people.

Cornwallis founded Halifax in 1749. Later that year, he issued a bounty on the scalps of Mi’kmaq men, women and children.

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“Why would I want to idolize the man?” Mi’kmaq elder Dan Paul, who has led the charge to rename these sites, said in an interview this week. “You don’t see a Jew idolizing Hitler, do you?”

The Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre, which borders Cornwallis Street, sent a letter to council in April asking the street be renamed.

“Since we opened … we have suffered the humiliation,” the letter reads. “The argument that what Cornwallis did to the Mi’kmaq was the result of different times and values does not wash.”

Controversy present throughout the province

The Cornwallis Street Baptist Church, a mostly black congregation, sent its own letter to council in support of the centre, calling the name an affront to the Mi’kmaq.

The Cornwallis controversy extends throughout Nova Scotia. The military leader is also the namesake of Cornwallis River and Cornwallis Park in the Annapolis Valley.

A group calling for the Cornwallis River to be renamed is presenting a plan to regional councils next month.

Not everyone agrees these sites should be renamed.

In 2011, Paul succeeded in renaming a public junior high school. Then-mayor Peter Kelly likened it to sanitizing history, saying the story should be broadened to include the Mi’kmaq people, not erased altogether.

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READ MORE: Debate building over whether to put away statues of Canada historical figures

Last year, at Paul’s request, Premier Stephen McNeil took down signs for the Cornwallis River near the Annapolis Valley First Nation last year.

“He felt it was inappropriate that there would be a sign there that recognized Cornwallis very close to that Mi’kmaq community,” McNeil told the provincial legislature.

Halifax is also contemplating the future of a statue of Cornwallis opposite the city’s train station.

Mason said in an email Thursday he’s still working on the wording of his motion, which would cover all “municipal assets.”

“I have been engaged in this dialogue, asking the question, ‘What do we do as a society with commemorative landscapes that are unrepresentative of present values?”‘ Mason said in a statement last year.

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