Committee for commemorating Cornwallis and Indigenous history receives new name, powers
The Halifax Regional Municipality’s new committee for commemorating both Halifax founder Edward Cornwallis and Nova Scotia’s rich Indigenous history has received a new name and new powers.
On Monday, that special advisory committee officially became a task force, which puts it at arm’s length from the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), and according to its members, better reflects the equal partnership between the HRM and the Mi’kmaw community.
It was previously designated a ‘Committee of Council,’ and its new name, in full, is the Task Force on the Commemoration of Edward Cornwallis and the Recognition and Commemoration of Indigenous History.
Co-chairs Monica MacDonald and We’koma’q Chief Roderick Googoo said the name and status change was first on the group’s list of priorities when its 10 members were announced in July 2018.
It also comes with some additional responsibility, they added, which they’re happy to undertake.
“Well now that we’re a partnership between HRM and the Mi’kmaw Nation as represented by the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs, we’re able to determine our own processes and procedures,” said MacDonald.
“And the budget that we started out with that was provided just by HRM, is now shared between the two governing bodies and the logistical administrative support as well.”
The committee was unveiled last summer in the months following the removal of the Edward Cornwallis statue from a downtown park.
Cornwallis was governor of Nova Scotia in 1749, when he issued an infamous reward for Mi’kmaw scalps, prompting calls – centuries later – for his name to be removed from schools, rivers, streets, parks and monuments.
WATCH: Crews remove controversial Cornwallis statue from Halifax park
Now a task force, its other members include author and advocate Daniel Paul; linguist and consultant Bernie Francis; Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre executive director Pam Glode-Desrochers; and writer and activist Jaime Battiste. Former Halifax city councillor Sheila Fougere, history professor John Reid, former Parks Canada historian John Johnston, and Anglican priest Paul Friesen, are also on the committee.
The task force will now begin meeting on the third Monday of every month to start its work of preserving and honouring Indigenous history and examining how Halifax commemorates its controversial founder.
MacDonald said the new change in the organization’s governance structure took a good deal of “finagling” with the HRM, which may have created the illusion that it has not been very active since its inception.
“(The HRM) really didn’t know what to do with our request, so they finally determined over a couple of months that we would have to pass our own motion, to then take it back to council and have them pass the motion, and the Assembly did as well,” she explained.
“The whole approach then had to be ratified by both parties, so that took us up until mid-December.”
The task has already gathered research materials and research questions for its work, and will move forward with a combination of private meetings, public meetings and public engagement sessions, depending on the sensitivity of the topics to be discussed.
But at all times, added Googoo, the task force welcomes public feedback on its mission in the form of written submissions.
He also emphasized that while the removal of the Cornwallis statue may have put the wheels in motion for the creation of the committee, the changing of names and removal of effigies is superficial, and not at the core of the task force’s mission.
“I think everybody is sort of obsessed with the statue and we feel that is not the main issue, the statue itself. It’s the history and how do we find a way moving forward as people,” he told Global News.
“So we don’t want people getting fixated on the statue. The statue is just an object to us.”
The task force has been asked to report its findings within two years, but says that if it needs more time to do so, it will take that time.
– with files from The Canadian Press
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