The co-chair of the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs is questioning the need to assemble an expert panel to decide how Halifax Regional Municipality should commemorate the city’s founder, Edward Cornwallis.
“Why should we have an expert panel to decide whether or not an individual like that should be commemorated,” Membertou Chief Terrance Paul said in a phone interview. “It should be an easy decision for anybody that’s got any heart or feelings about humanity.”
“This person was a murderer. It doesn’t matter what the times were. This individual was responsible for doing that not only here but on the other side of the ocean,” Chief Paul added.
While Cornwallis is known for establishing Halifax in 1749 for the British, he also issued a scalping proclamation that year against Mi’kmaw men, women and children. The British military officer is also known for killing Scottish men who fought the British during the Jacobite rebellion in 1745.
In Oct. 2017, Halifax Regional Council voted 15-2 in favour of establishing an expert panel to determine whether Halifax Regional Municipality should remove the name of the city’s founder from municipal property. It was also mandated to look at ways for the municipality to commemorate Indigenous history.
According to a report prepared for Halifax Regional Council, the panel would have eight members, four who are Mi’kmaq and four who are non-Indigenous. Panellists would receive an honorarium of $150 per meeting up to $2,100. The total budget for the panel would be set at $50,000.
The panel was approved in response to growing protests over the statue of Cornwallis in Halifax’s south end. On Canada Day in 2017, Indigenous demonstrators at the statue were confronted by a group of men that called themselves Proud Boys who wanted to disrupt the protest. A couple of weeks later, a large demonstration was held in which the statue was covered for a few hours as a way to symbolically remove it.
HRM reached out to the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs to help the city select Mi’kmaw panel members. However, the Assembly withdrew from the process after one HRM councillor objected to Potlotek Chief Wilbert Marshall being appointed to the panel due to his 2008 sexual assault conviction.
HRM removed the statue of Cornwallis on Jan. 31 amid growing concerns that protesters would eventually remove the statue themselves.
According to media reports, the statue is currently in storage on Turner Drive at Burnside Industrial Park in Dartmouth, N.S.
We’koqma’q Chief Roderick Googoo to represent ANSMC on panel
Since then, HRM has re-connected with the ANSMC to include them in selecting the panel members. As a result, an amendment to the panel was presented to Halifax Regional Council to expand the number of panel members from eight to ten.
On July 17, regional council voted 15-1 in favour of expanding the expert panel. District 13 (Hammonds Plains-St. Margarets) Councillor Matt Whitman voted against the motion.
Chief Paul confirmed that one of the panel members is We’koqma’q First Nation Chief Roderick Googoo who will represent the ANSMC.
“Chief Rod Googoo has agreed to sit on that panel and the rest of the chiefs agreed to that,” Chief Paul said.
HRM is expected to announce names of the panel members on Thursday morning.
Despite his personal opinions about the expert panel, Chief Paul is hopeful the panel will do what he calls the “right thing.”
“Well, I guess there’s a point in time where we just let the process happen and hope that the process they have in place comes up with no other decision than to remove this individual altogether,” he said.