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Assembly of N.S. Mi’kmaq Chiefs withdraws from Cornwallis panel, calls for immediate removal of statue

Click to play video: 'Halifax poet laureate calls on council to rethink position on Cornwallis' Halifax poet laureate calls on council to rethink position on Cornwallis
Halifax's poet laureate Rebecca Thomas performed her poem 'Not Perfect' to councillors on Tuesday – Apr 11, 2017

The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs has withdrawn from the panel that was created to determine the future of the controversial statue of Edward Cornwallis.

The organization is now calling on Halifax to immediately remove the statue and deal with all other commemorations to the municipality’s founder.

The decision was made unanimously at a meeting of the chiefs on Thursday.

In a press release on Friday, the assembly says part of the reason for their withdrawal was that the committee designed to review commemorations to Cornwallis has taken too long to meet.

The committee was first announced in October.

“We have been more than patient to see movement on this,” said Chief Bob Gloade of the Millbrook First Nation.

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“The Mi’kmaq need to see action now, and that is why we voted for the statue to be immediately removed.”

READ MORE: Edward Cornwallis, the man behind Halifax’s divisive debate

Cornwallis controversy

Cornwallis, as governor of Nova Scotia, founded Halifax in 1749 and soon after issued a bounty on Mi’kmaq scalps in response to an attack on colonists. The Mi’kmaq have long called for removal of tributes to Cornwallis, some calling his actions a form of genocide.

The dispute came to the forefront of Halifax’s political consciousness in May 2016 with a failed motion at regional council to examine the issue.

In July 2017, a 100-person protest was held earlier this year as Indigenous activists called for a statue of Cornwallis to be removed.

The activists argued that Cornwallis is a symbol of colonial oppression, a man who issued a scalping proclamation against Mi’kmaq people and unleashed death and destruction on Indigenous inhabitants.

Others argue, that the removal of Cornwallis is tantamount to erasing history.

WATCH: Calls to remove Halifax’s Cornwallis statue grow louder

Click to play video: 'Calls to remove Halifax’s Cornwallis statue grow louder' Calls to remove Halifax’s Cornwallis statue grow louder
Calls to remove Halifax’s Cornwallis statue grow louder – Jul 14, 2017

Formation of the committee on Cornwallis

The eight-person panel was formally created by the a vote at Halifax Regional Council on Oct. 10, 2017, with the intent of providing council with advice on what to do with a statue of Cornwallis in downtown Halifax, as well as make recommendations on how the municipality could honour Indigenous history.

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No matter the recommendation from the advisory committee, the final decision on the future of the Cornwallis statue, and how the city commemorates its founder, will be left in the hands of the municipality’s 16 councillors and Mayor Mike Savage.

The fate of the panel is no longer clear. Requests for comment from the municipality have not been immediately returned.

— with files from the Canadian Press

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