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

Sylvan Lake’s Farmer’s Market returns in the middle of winter

The Farmer’s Market was held at the Community Centre, Feb. 16

WATCH: Ice racing on Sylvan Lake draws a crowd

The Alberta Oval Ice Racing championship series was held in Sylvan Lake over the Family Day weekend

Let the Games begin!

Team Alberta takes home gold and silver in speed skating on day one

WATCH: Historic night in Red Deer as 2019 Canada Winter Games kicks off

Star-studded Opening Ceremony features athletes from across Canada

Athletes’ medals unveiled at the official kick-off of 2019 Canada Winter Games

Medals depict Central Alberta landscape and pay tribute to First Nations

Mermen calendar targets ‘toxic masculinity,’ raises big money for charities

Newfoundland and Labrador Beard and Moustache Club gave a cheque for more than $202,000 to Violence Prevention NL

‘Our entire municipality is heartbroken’: Seven children die in Halifax house fire

A man and woman remained in hospital Tuesday afternoon, the man with life-threatening injuries

Team Alberta takes exciting victory in wheelchair basketball, remains undefeated

After three games in the tournament, Alberta is sitting in first place of its pool

UPDATED: ‘Violent’ B.C. man back in custody after Alberta arrest

Prince George man with ties to Vernon was being sought by police

After a week away, SNC-Lavalin questions await MPs returning to Parliament

Two have resigned already: Jody Wilson-Raybould was veterans affairs minister and Gerald Butts was Trudeau’s principal secretary

Chanel: Iconic couturier Karl Lagerfeld has died

He spent virtually his entire career at luxury labels catering to the very wealthy

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls for public inquiry over SNC-Lavalin questions

Vancouver member of Parliament Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet last week

Body found after apparent house explosion in Calgary, police investigating

Sgt. Dwayne Lepchuk declined to say whose remains were found

Canadian airlines waiting for guidance from Ottawa over X gender option

Major U.S. airlines said they will change their process so passengers can identify themselves along non-binary lines

Most Read