The term “Indian” and other offensive words are used for over a dozen streets, communities and bodies of water throughout Halifax Regional Municipality. A Mi’kmaw elder and author, Daniel Paul, says he thinks it’s time for change.
“They give a destination, if you want to put it that way. A name that’s more compatible with reality is fine,” said Paul.
“The word ‘Indian,’ for example, is not applicable to the Indigenous people of the Americas by no means. It belongs to another country altogether.”
The Cornwallis task force report recommended the city examine its approach to naming streets to reintroduce Mi’kmaw place names and language.
On Tuesday, council voted for a staff report to look into removing the word from all municipal streets and place names. Coun. Pamela Lovelace, who put forth the motion, says she knows the only way forward is together.
“We’ll continue to have this conversation. Reconciliation is a process,” said Lovelace. “Peace and friendship is the end goal and that takes time, so we’re headed in the right direction. And I’m proud of the conversations and the willingness to learn Indigenous history within our community.”
The Cornwallis task force also recommended renaming Cornwallis Street, named for Halifax’s controversial founder who was known to have put a bounty on Mi’kmaq scalps in 1749 while serving as the governor of Nova Scotia.
Paul, along with other elders in the Mi’kmaw community say they want to have a seat at the table when it comes to discussing new names.
“It’s something we should be looking at and stop honouring these monsters of history across the board,” said Paul.
“You don’t name things in honor of individuals that … did things to an entire community. That’s not exactly explementary.”
In 2018, The Cornwallis Street Baptist Church changed its name to New Horizons, a change that they say supports their First Nations brothers and sisters.
Their pastor, Dr. Rhonda Britton, started a petition in 2008 to have the name of Cornwallis Street renamed as well — something she says she is disappointed has not happened yet.