News / Halifax

Halifax regional council votes in favour of expert panel to tackle Edward Cornwallis controversy

Council voted to have staff write a report “with terms of reference and a recommended composition for an expert panel” on Halifax's so-called founder.

The statue of Edward Cornwallis in his namesake park in Halifax.

Jeff Harper / Metro Order this photo

The statue of Edward Cornwallis in his namesake park in Halifax.

After a vote by Halifax regional council, an expert panel could soon be tackling the question of whether municipal assets should bear the name of Halifax’s controversial so-called founder.

At its meeting on Tuesday, council voted 15-1 in favour of a motion from Coun. Shawn Cleary asking for a staff report “with terms of reference and a recommended composition for an expert panel” to advise council “regarding any changes to the commemoration of Edward Cornwallis on municipal assets, including Cornwallis Park and Cornwallis Street.”

In 1749, Cornwallis offered a bounty for Mi’kmaq scalps. In recent years, there’s been a growing movement to have the statue of him removed from his namesake park.

“This motion is not about rewriting history,” Cleary said during debate. “Fact is, this needs to be about finding a way to move forward.”

Coun. Lindell Smith spoke passionately about the connection between the African Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaq experiences in Nova Scotia. He said the discussion isn’t just about Cornwallis; it’s about empathy.

“It’s slightly about removing Edward Cornwallis, but we’re really saying we need to recognize that conversation, and we need to empathize with people that feel hurt, and see where that goes,” he said. “And if we can’t do that, then I just might as well leave this council chamber and never come back.”

Coun. David Hendsbee eventually voted in favour of the motion – Coun. Stephen Adams was the lone no vote – but he questioned during the debate, “If you can’t rewrite it, why revisit it?”

“Moving statues, or hiding them away somewhere I don’t think is a fair and appropriate thing to do. You can’t whitewash history,” he said.

Coun. Waye Mason said he’s received “ridiculous and abusive emails and phone calls” from people who see it that way since his failed motion last year on Cornwallis.

“I’m tired of getting emails and phone calls from white men of privilege who say we should not have this discussion,” he said.

“We are all treaty people. Let’s be brave and have that discussion.”

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