The Edward Cornwallis statue is removed from Cornwallis Park in downtown Halifax. It had been placed there in 1931 as a heritage feature recognizing Cornwallis’s role in the founding of the Halifax settlement in June 1749 with 2547 settlers.
The historical figure of Cornwallis is seen by some as contentious, being charged in contemporary terms with ‘genocide’ upon the Mi’kmaq people through a Bounty Proclamation that Cornwallis issued for either the payment of scalps of Mi’kmaq warriors (as a result of their attacks upon the Halifax/Dartmouth settlement), or to take them prisoner. Others felt the term ‘genocide’ was a distortion of the historical records, seeing Cornwallis as protecting the security of settlers, and that in fact there are no specific records indicating that such payments for Mi’kmaq scalps were ever made by Cornwallis. There were eight raids in total carried out by the Mi’kmaq upon the Dartmouth settlement between 1749 and 1759, resulting in the deaths of many settlers. Current day Mi’kmaq contend that the settlement was attacked because it was located on unceded lands.
As the Cornwallis issue became more divisive, the Halifax Regional Municipality Council (HRM) in April 2017 proposed a panel be established to review “all aspects and facts of the situation and then advise council regarding the historical recognition of Edward Cornwallis.” The intention was to also create a public engagement-style process for this review. After further deliberations by senior staff, it was felt an eight-person panel would be established, with equal representatives from the Mi’kmaq (4) community, along with individuals (4) from the HRM community who had knowledge and expertise on the colonial history of Cornwallis’s time.
Six months later, in October 2017, the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs (representing 12 Chiefs) agreed to “work with HRM and submit names of Mi’kmaq representatives to sit on the HRM panel to discuss the concerns of the Cornwallis statue and how the HRM commemorates history.” Four names from the Mi’kmaq community were submitted, but after some delay the Mi’kmaq Chiefs later announced on 26 January 2018 that they would no longer participate in the panel process until the Cornwallis statue was removed. The statue was removed on 31 January 2018. At this writing, it is unclear whether the HRM Council will continue with the Expert Panel that had been originally proposed. A poll conducted by Atlantic CTV at the time indicated that over 54% of 2,872 HRM residents polled wanted the Cornwallis statute to remain. Voter turnout for HRM Council in 2016 was 29.7%. (Photo: The Edward Cornwallis statue being prepared to be taken down on 31 January 2018. And the CTV ‘Cornwallis statue’ poll 2018).