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Halifax council approves renaming Cornwallis Street to Nora Bernard Street

Click to play video: 'Global News Morning Halifax: December 13'
Global News Morning Halifax: December 13
The online edition of Global News Morning with Paul Brothers and Eilish Bonang on Global Halifax – Dec 13, 2022

Halifax Regional Council unanimously approved a motion to rename Cornwallis Street in the city’s north end in honour of a prominent Mi’kmaw activist and residential school survivor, Nora Bernard.

A staff report presented to council on Tuesday put forward Bernard’s name for the renaming project, which was among the recommendations of the Task Force on the Commemoration of Edward Cornwallis and the Recognition and Commemoration of Indigenous History.

Cornwallis was governor of Nova Scotia in 1749 when he issued a bounty for the scalps of the Mi’kmaq, prompting calls in recent years for his name to be removed from schools, rivers, streets, parks and monuments.

The name selection process began over a year ago, when the municipality received more than 3,300 name suggestions in the first survey, during the fall of 2021. In July of 2022, staff shortlisted the selection to 15 names, including Bernard’s.

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Bernard was from Millbrook First Nation and was forced to attend the Shubenacadie Residential School as a child. Later in life, she fought for compensation for residential school survivors and filed a class action suit, inspiring the largest class action lawsuit in Canadian history, which represented 79,000 survivors. In 2008, she was posthumously awarded the Order of Nova Scotia.

Mattatall-Varner Funeral Home

Nora Bernard Street has been recommended as the individual behind the new name for Cornwallis Street in Halifax. Bernard was a residential school survivor and prominent Mi’kmaq activist.

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Bernard’s daughter, Natalie Gloade, said she was both overwhelmed and honoured to hear her mother had been chosen. “It’s about time that they recognize not only our matriarch, but she’s our hero, she’s our trailblazer,” Gloade told Global News last week.

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‘Outstanding’ response to project

District 8 Coun. Lindell Smith said Tuesday there was an “outstanding” amount of feedback from residents in the name selection process.

Halifax’s civic addressing co-ordinator Gayle MacLean, who led the project, said it was a huge success.

“Street renamings in the past have only involved the property owners that lived on the street and often the tenants as well,” she said.

When the recommendation to name Cornwallis Street was made, the municipality was advised to open up participation for the project. MacLean said staff came up with a corporate plan for engagement on a municipal level, as well as with property owners on the street.

“I’m confident in saying this is the highest level of engagement we’ve ever had for a renaming project,” MacLean said.

About 75 per cent of Cornwallis Street residents participated in the project. Based on the success, MacLean recommended the city take this approach in future street naming projects.

District 7 Coun. Waye Mason said MacLean and staff worked hard to make this happen, amid pushback from some residents.

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“The people who opposed this change, many of them … hold deeply held beliefs. Sometimes the way they present those beliefs is not in the most friendly or constructive way,” Mason said.

“I just wanted to recognize Gayle and staff did a lot of work in what can sometimes be adverse conditions.”

Mason said that for the councillors who have been there since the beginning of Cornwallis discussions, this was an “important delivery of promises that we’ve made to this community to this community that traditionally was not respected by the province, by this municipality.”

“I really am glad we were able to deliver this today.”

The motion to rename the street to Nora Bernard Street passed unanimously.

— With files from Rebecca Lau. 

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