I saw this interesting article from the The Walrus magazine. There is a debate raging in Canada over who gets to select historical honours in the form of either statues ( General Cornwallis in Halifax), naming rooms in Parliament (Removing the name “Langevin Block”), or even street names (Trutch Street in Victoria, BC).
Supporters of a statue of British General Cornwallis claim that to remove this statue “white washes” history. A number of Mi’Kmaw members say it is a symbol of hate and racism, and needs to be removed.
Here are some selected quotes from the article:
- As she worked, a large white man approached her, a motorcycle helmet tucked under his arm. To Paul, his aggression felt palpable, so she asked him to leave. He refused. Instead, he began to lecture her, defending Cornwallis and what the man saw as his legacy. Paul knew better, of course. Unable to quell the Mi’kmaq resistance on the peninsula in 1749, Cornwallis put a bounty on the scalp of every Mi’kmaq person in mainland Nova Scotia, including children. Put simply, he wanted them gone.
- That’s why Paul joined the movement to take down Cornwallis statue, a struggle that has gone on for more than three decades in Halifax. “There’s the oppression of living in a society that doesn’t have racial inclusion,” she says, “and then there is this symbol in the middle of the park just to fortify those messages.”
- While she admits taking down monuments won’t suddenly bring about reconciliation with Indigenous communities, she says doing so would go a long way in paving the road towards a better future. “If you want to talk about reconciliation,” she says, “those reminders need to be taken away.”
- Sir John A. Macdonald, whose face is plastered on our ten-dollar bills. He was also an early proponent of the residential school system and other genocidal policies against Indigenous peoples. As famine hit Indigenous communities, for instance, Macdonald bragged about denying them food as a way to clear the way for the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. “We are doing all we can,” he once said, “by refusing food until the Indians are on the verge of starvation, to reduce the expense.”
As teachers, this article can be used to open conversations on how Canada selects people we wish to honour. It will also give the Mi’Kmaw perspective on this statue as seen through the eyes of activist Tayla Fern Paul.
Here is the link to the article: https://thewalrus.ca/inside-the-indigenous-fight-to-reshape-canadas-history/