A coast guard ship named after a controversial figure in Nova Scotia history is being renamed in honour of a Peace and Friendship Treaty.
The CCGS Cornwallis, which was named after former Lieutenant Governor Edward Cornwallis, will be called CCGS Kopit Hopson 1752 when it is relaunched later this year.
The federal government had announced the ship would be renamed last summer. The move came after growing controversy around Cornwallis, who had ordered bounties for the scalps of Mi’kmaq people in a bid to drive them from their lands.
The new name was put forward by the Assembly of Nova Scotia Chiefs, and honours the original signatories of the treaties: Mi’kmaw Chief Kopit and Nova Scotia Governor Peregrine Hopson.
Mi’kmaw elder and historian Daniel Paul was instrumental in pushing for the change, and helped recommend the new name.
“It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for 35 to 40 years now,” he said.
“It means Nova Scotia society is changing. Canadian society is beginning to realize that some of their heroes may be offensive to large populations of people.”
Paul’s 1993 book, We Were Not the Savages, shed light on Cornwallis and the atrocities he committed. Paul points out those atrocities were not just against the Mi’kmaq people, but also against the Jacobites in Scotland.
“Until I wrote We Were Not the Savages in 1993, what you had was a fairytale version of history,” he said.
“I made up my mind a long time ago in 1985, I would do my best to change everything.”
In a statement, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan says she hopes the name change will better reflect what the coast guard represents.
“These Treaties set out long-standing commitments between the Crown and the Mi’kmaw, Maliseet and Peskotomuhkati people. They envisioned a partnership built on mutual respect and service to one another,” she said.
“The core values of the Canadian Coast Guard are honour, respect, and devotion to duty, and this vessel now has a name that reflects those principles. Reconciliation is a journey, and we will continue to work together to honour the promises made in the Treaties.”
Last July, Halifax Regional Council voted to accept the recommendations of a task force that recommended the city cut ties with Cornwallis.
The document suggested renaming streets and parks named after the founder of Halifax while supporting youth activities that recognize Indigenous heritage.