It has come to the attention of Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) that a protest is planned for Saturday, July 15, the purpose of which is to forcibly remove the statue of Edward Cornwallis from the park that bears his name.
Any action this weekend to remove the statue is not condoned by the Nova Scotia Assembly of Mi’kmaq Chiefs, by the bands that have land within HRM.
It is true that many Mi’kmaq people, Indigenous people, and others of all backgrounds disagree with the continued presence of Edward Cornwallis on a pedestal in a public park. I understand this position and am committed to a resolution of this situation.
To that end, Council voted 15-1 on April 25 to seek an expert panel, inclusive of Mi’kmaq voices, to recommend an appropriate way forward for what has become a polarizing issue in this community. Removal of the statue and the renaming of the park, must be among the considerations for the panel as well as for Council.
But, I think too, we should open ourselves to other possibilities. Is there a way to tell our whole shared history in this park? Can a park be a place where we reconcile our past with a new way forward in the spirit of reconciliation? If Mi’kmaq activists and their supporters take down the Cornwallis statue before we are given an opportunity to cooperatively forge a better way forward, we will set back progress that is already being made.
When Council made its strong vote to address the Cornwallis issue, it also voted to seek recommendations on ways to recognize and commemorate the history of the Mi’kmaq people on these lands. We can do better. I see it around the Council chamber, and I see the honest intention in our recent actions, including the move to help make the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre part of a redevelopment on a key downtown site.
I am committed to furthering our relationship with the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia as is our Council, which is why we adopted a Statement of Reconciliation. I believe it is crucial for all citizens of HRM that we have a new relationship, and as Mayor I will be an advocate for these issues. It matters deeply to me.
The municipality and its partners in policing will not stand in the way of legitimate public protest, nor will we condone violent action in the place of real dialogue.