Halifax council to decide whether they’ll remove controversial Cornwallis statue
The fate of Halifax’s controversial statue may be decided on Tuesday at the municipality’s regional council.
A last-minute addition to the council’s agenda will see them consider a recommendation from city staff to remove the statue of Edward Cornwallis from its current position in Cornwallis Park and place it in temporary storage until council is able to make a decision about the statue’s long-term future.
The added item comes only days after the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs pulled out of a panel to advise council on how the municipality should commemorate Cornwallis — citing frustration with the time it has taken for the panel to meet.
The committee was first announced in October.
In a press release on Friday, the organization called on the municipality to immediately remove the statue and deal with all other commemorations to the municipality’s founder.
Shawn Cleary, who introduced the original motion that created the panel, says he views the motion as an olive branch to the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs.
“I hope it’ll have them come back and take part in the panel process,” Cleary said in an interview on Monday evening.
Cleary said that without the input from the assembly, it would be unlikely that the panel’s goals could be met.
“I’d like to see this be a government-to-government discussion, especially when looking at [the panel’s] second mandate, which was for the panel to consider how to honour Indigenous history and the Indigenous cultures we have here in Halifax.”
A rally is scheduled to happen on Sunday at the site of the statue.
“Not only do the chiefs want it removed immediately, we the grassroots people want it removed immediately, and it’s not only Indigenous people who are asking for the removal, it’s our allies,” Suzanne Patles, an organizer of the demonstration, said over the phone from Sydney, N.S.
The staff report cites planned protests and probable “increased volatility” as a reason for their recommendation to remove the Cornwallis statue.
According to council, the protests may “be less peaceful than the protests of July 2017, and represent a significant risk for damage to the statue, conflicts among protesters and counter-protesters.”
Staff also believe the statue’s removal would be helpful in re-engaging the the Asssembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs.
WATCH: Calls for action to remove Cornwallis statue resurface in Halifax
Halifax’s mayor told Global News on Monday that he plans to continue to work on convening a panel.
“We’re on a journey, reconciliation is a journey, and there aren’t many journeys that don’t have detours, and this is obviously a detour,” Mike Savage said.
He said the process, which councillors voted in 2017 to initiate, has taken longer than anyone wanted.
“I think there’s a couple of issues that are involved that I’m not going to talk about because the composition of the panel is an in-camera discussion. As you know, there was going to be an Indigenous component, and a non-Indigenous component, and I think we were well on our way but we weren’t quite there, and I’m not interested in blaming people, I’m interested in seeing if we can find a new way of getting where we need to get,” Savage said.
Spokesperson Crystal Dorey said no one from the assembly would comment on Monday.
Cornwallis is controversial for, among other reasons, offering a bounty for Mi’kmaq scalps.
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