The Edward Cornwallis statue in Cornwallis Park in south-end Halifax. The Canadian Press.

Halifax council debates immediate removal of Edward Cornwallis statue

Days after Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq chiefs called for the statue to be taken down, councillors debate city’s controversial founder

Halifax council is debating the immediate removal of a statue of Edward Cornwallis from a city park.

Days after Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq chiefs called for the statue to be taken down, councillors are considering placing the bronze figure of the city’s controversial founder in storage until a decision is made on its long-term fate.

Mayor Mike Savage told council that the issue of truth and reconciliation is in the public square, and has been a long time coming.

Speaking from prepared notes, he says that “we are all a product of our history,” but we do not have to be a prisoner to it.

The mayor told council that removing the statue is not about re-writing history, but acknowledging that history is also not “not cast in bronze.”

A staff report suggests the Cornwallis statue could be taken down and stored at a cost of about $25,000.

It says it is concerned about rising tensions around the statue, citing a planned protest Sunday that could result in “damage to the statue, conflicts among protesters and counter-protesters and personal injury.”

“The statue has increasingly become a flashpoint for protests,” states the document, dated Jan. 27.

“Clashes arising from protests and counter-protests of controversial statues in other jurisdictions have in some cases resulted in injury and damage to public property and in a worst case, death. There is a reputational risk to Halifax from the attention associated with this unrest.”

Halifax councillors voted last fall to launch a special advisory committee that would provide council with advice on what to do with Cornwallis commemorations, as well as make recommendations for honouring Indigenous history.

But the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs said it was frustrated with a process that has dragged on for “far too long” and the amount of time it has taken the panel to meet after it was first announced last October. On Friday, it called on the city to remove the statue from a downtown park.

The assembly said it submitted names of potential Mi’kmaq panellists, but the committee has yet to be formed.

The council report also calls on the mayor to “re-engage” the assembly in the committee.

“Removing the statue offers the opportunity to reduce the current volatility around discussions of commemoration, protect the statue, and undertake a public engagement in a less charged environment than is currently the case,” it states.

Last summer, members of the assembly tried to quell a grassroots protest calling for the statue’s removal.

The assembly’s stance was cited by Savage when he spoke out against the apparent threat to public property ahead of the event, which he later attended as the city temporarily covered the bronze figure in tarp.

Organizers have planned another “Removing Cornwallis” rally this weekend, which activists have said was partly inspired by the assembly’s recent call for action.

Cornwallis is a disputed character seen by some as a brave leader who founded Halifax, but by others as the commander of a bloody and barbaric extermination campaign against Mi’kmaq inhabitants.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Missing teen reportedly spotted in Northwest

Police, family greatly concerned over disappearance of Colten Therrin Fleury

Police, Conservation see busy long weekend

Arrests, tickets and warnings follow joint-enforcement initiative

Injury forces end to hiker’s Pacific Crest Trail attempt

Due home this week, Janine Wilson still determined to finish challenge in the future

Vancouver choir to perform joint-concert with two local ensembles

Concert will take place on Saturday, May 26 at the Knox United Church

Construction of LNG Canada plant still on hold

Construction will only begin following a positive final investment decision

Syrian refugee fathers thriving at Skeena Sawmills in Terrace

With work at the mill, the Al Kadro family bought a home and is settling into the local community

B.C. RCMP swoop in to save injured eagle

An eagle with a broken wing now in a recovery facility after RCMP rescue near Bella Coola

Bug spray 101: Health Canada wants you to stay bite free

Health Canada is reminding Canadians to use bug spray and other insect repellents safely

Unions reject CP Rail contract offers

Both meeting Friday to determine next steps; 72 hours notice required before strike action.

B.C. jewellers warn public about fake gold scam

‘They are playing on people’s sympathy and their greed’

Former B.C. premier says pot industry about to enter Wild West

Mike Harcourt says Canada is about to enter a new gold rush with many dreaming of striking it rich

Hunt continues for two suspects in Ontario restaurant explosion

The explosion left 15 people injured, but all victims have now been released from hospital

B.C. teacher charged with sexual offences involving two teens

Henry Kang, 50, of Abbotsford charged with two counts each sex assault and sexual exploitation

Toronto Raptors star to hold basketball camp in B.C.

DeMar DeRozan is hosting a four-day camp for players aged 6-16 at the University of Victoria

Most Read