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‘Incompatible with current values’: Cornwallis task force recommends renaming, investing

Cornwallis Task Force co-chairs Dr. Monica MacDonald and Chief Roderick Googoo share a conversation during a public information session.
Cornwallis Task Force co-chairs Dr. Monica MacDonald and Chief Roderick Googoo share a conversation during a public information session. Jesse Thomas / Global News

After more than year of public consultation, the task force established to examine Halifax’s relationship with founder Edward Cornwallis has released a report recommending the city sever its ties.

Suggestions include renaming streets and parks named after the controversial colonizer, supporting youth activities that recognize Indigenous heritage, and distributing copies of the report in schools and libraries throughout the region.

“Although his assumptions of racial superiority were not uncommon for a man of his era and social background, continued public commemoration of his role is incompatible with current values,” the document reads.

It was published ahead of a Tuesday council meeting, where its findings will be recommended for approval by Halifax Regional Council.

READ MORE: Edward Cornwallis task force moves to final phase of public engagement sessions

The report comes less than a month after the federal government asked the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs to recommend a new name for a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker that also bears the Cornwallis name.

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Cornwallis is known for putting a bounty on Mi’kmaq scalps in 1749 while governor of Nova Scotia.

The Halifax Regional Municipality drew national attention in 2018 when council decided to remove a statue of him from a downtown park that also bears his name.

Click to play video 'Cornwallis Street name being revisited' Cornwallis Street name being revisited
Cornwallis Street name being revisited – Jan 22, 2019

READ MORE: Halifax hosts first consultation on commemorating Cornwallis

The new report recommends that the statue never be returned “under any circumstances” to a position of public commemoration, but placed in context in a new museum — to be funding by the city — that also displays Mi’kmaw history in Nova Scotia.

Cornwallis Park, it adds, is to formally be renamed Peace and Friendship Park, and Cornwallis Street to be renamed New Horizons Street, subject to approval from the congregation of the New Horizons Baptist Church.

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“This is a shift,” said Jaime Battiste, MP for Sydney-Victoria, a former task force member, and a Mi’kmaw treaty educator. “It’s a shift towards love, towards healing towards reconciliation.”

“I think we’ve got a long way to go, but I think going into Halifax and not seeing that statue there — it’s a sign of progress. It’s a sign of us moving forward together as Canadians.”

READ MORE: Indigenous historian suggests name change for coast guard vessel Cornwallis

The report also recommends a series of investments in new infrastructure to commemorate Mi’kmaw heritage and enhance public understanding of systemic racism and how to overcome it.

“We feel that this vision that we have of these recommendations will really help the community build around Mi’kmaw values and beliefs and integrate the whole,” said task force co-chair Monica MacDonald.

The task force encouraged the HRM to begin with funding the Point Pleasant Park Mi’kmaq Heritage Area Interpretive Plan, and launching a co-operative process for creating outdoor spaces that memorialize Indigenous history, residential-school survivors and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Click to play video 'Halifax city unveils Cornwallis committee' Halifax city unveils Cornwallis committee
Halifax city unveils Cornwallis committee – Jul 26, 2018

The group also pushed for the creation of displays created by Mi’kmaq artists and designers to honour their culture at the Halifax Port and Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

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“Regarding Indigenous commemoration, the (municipality) – in cooperation with the Mi’kmaw community and with major Mi’kmaq organizations – has an invaluable opportunity to lead,” the report says.

Another suggestion, it cites, is to add Mi’kmaw language to naming and signage, and to replace anglicized Mi’kmaq names, such as Chebucto Road, with their original names, K’jipuktuk Road.