‘Is this how Halifax chooses to be bold’: Halifax Poet Laureate takes council to task on Cornwallis
Halifax’s poet laureate says if council doesn’t remove the statue of Edward Cornwallis from its “pedestal” it should at least install more indigenous art throughout Halifax.
To mark national poetry day Rebecca Thomas performed her poem “Not Perfect” for regional council on Tuesday.
“A lack of perfection is a poor excuse, to keep Cornwallis enshrined regardless of his abuse; please, cut him loose,” said Thomas in her poem.
The poem takes council to task for its inaction on either removing commemorations to Cornwallis throughout the city or at least putting the commemorations to Cornwallis in context.
Cornwallis is celebrated for founding Halifax in 1749. But he also imposed racist policies – notoriously putting a bounty on the scalps of Mi’kmaq people. The official history of Halifax, on the city’s website doesn’t acknowledge his policy of killing Mi’kmaq people, nor does the plaque on his statue in Cornwallis Park.
“How can granting us our humanity, be any less of a priority than making the donair the official meal of Halifax city.”
WATCH: Halifax Poet Laureate Rebecca Thomas is calling on regional council to rethink its promotion of Halifax’s founder — Marieke Walsh reports.
‘Bring him off his pedestal’: Thomas
Last year council narrowly voted against a review of how the city commemorates Cornwallis – in particular Cornwallis Street and Cornwallis Park. At the time councillors Reg Rankin, Matt Whitman, David Hendsbee, Gloria McCluskey, Lorelei Nicoll, Linda Mosher, Russell Walker, and Stephen Adams voted against opening the issue.
On Tuesday deputy mayor Steve Craig said he expects the issue will come up again at council. After her performance, he told Thomas her words didn’t fall on deaf ears. Members of council and people in the gallery gave Thomas a standing ovation.
Speaking with Global News afterward Thomas said she wanted to emphasize to council that “history still has an impact.”
She said she would like to see Cornwallis taken off his “pedestal” in Cornwallis Park and put in a place like Citadel Hill where more information about his history can be given.
“I would like to see him brought off his pedestal and taken out of a place of honour,” she said. “There’s a difference between remembering somebody and honouring them.”
Alternatively if council does nothing with the Cornwallis statue, Thomas suggested the city could put more indigenous art in places of prominence and install statues commemorating Mi’kmaq people. In her poem she suggests Anna Mae Aquash, Donald Marshall Junior, or Grand Chief Membertou.
Craig described her poem as “heartfelt” and “respectful.”
Craig said the issue of how to remember Cornwallis is something council needs to “look at.” He said he’s spoken with Mayor Mike Savage about the “best way forward.”
“We can’t erase history but we can put it in perspective,” Craig said.
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