A number of posters have been put up at Cornwallis Park in response to Halifax Regional Council’s decision Tuesday to have the controversial statue of the city’s founder removed.
On Tuesday evening at least four posters were found affixed to benches and light poles around the park. They read “Save Our Statue” and “Crush Cultural Marxism” and contain a QR code that links to a Facebook community called “Save Our Statue”. At the time of publication the community had 11 members.
On Wednesday morning the posters had been removed but it’s not clear who removed them.
Posts in the Facebook community express opposition to city council’s decision to remove the statue, place it in storage and continue with plans to form an expert panel to discuss how to commemorate Cornwallis, the British military leader who issued bounties for Mi’kmaq scalps in the 18th century.
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage told APTN News Wednesday that he’s “not surprised people would react negatively” to council’s decision, but that he feels “the right decision was made” to remove the statue.
“There are people who feel strongly about this, on both sides,” he said.
“For me, it’s the only way forward. We had to take the statue down, and we still have to have the conversation and decide where the statue goes.”
Mi’kmaw Elder Daniel Paul, who authored the acclaimed book “We Were Not The Savages” in 1993 and has been calling for the Cornwallis statue’s removal since that time, told APTN that he too wasn’t surprised by the posters that surfaced Tuesday.
“I fully expected there’s going to be white supremacists coming out of the woodwork, and there will be for a long time to come,” he said. “You’re not going to change things of that nature. But I do hope that the majority of Nova Scotia is going to be supportive of reconciliation.”
Paul addressed some of the claims made in the “Save Our Statue” Facebook community that reference his book.
One comment by the community’s anonymous moderator claims that “there is no evidence of actual genocide” having taken place against the Mi’kmaq, and that Cornwallis merely “practiced standard methods of colonial warfare.”
Paul takes issue with that statement, saying while there’s no way to tally the number of Mi’kmaq killed by British colonists responding to the scalping proclamations, there is documented evidence that many lives were taken.
“Captain John Gorham’s rangers were brought into Nova Scotia in 1744 to enforce a proclamation by Governor William Shirley of Massachusetts—a declaration of war actually—against Mi’kmaq, and there was a scalp proclamation issued by Shirley that paid a bounty for Mi’kmaq men, women and children; it didn’t pay as much for women and children as it did for men,” he explained.
“And Gorham was part of the military government in 1749 that agreed to put the bounty on the Mi’kmaq, and [he] got in a squabble with Governor William Shirley because the government wasn’t paying the bounties fast enough and his bounty hunters were getting restless.
“All that is part of history. Bounties, not only for Mi’kmaq scalps but for Indigenous people all along the Eastern coast, started in the 1600s, and at that time they were issuing bounties for the heads of Indigenous people. And then that probably became too cumbersome, so around 1667 they switched over to issuing bounties for just the scalps of Indigenous people.
“So anybody who says there wasn’t an attempt by the British to exterminate the Indigenous populations of the Americas need to dig into history a bit and learn something about it. You don’t go through history books and just dig out little points that might support your ideas.”
APTN received a response from the “Save Our Statue” anonymous moderator just prior to publication but decided not to proceed with an interview since the moderator would not agree to disclose their identity.
Paul said he’s “very pleased” Halifax Regional Council voted to remove the statue, even though the statue’s future hangs in limbo.
“It took an awful long time for them to make the right decision, but I figured sometime they would. I’ve been at this for over 30 years,” Paul said, adding he wouldn’t mind if the city put the statue in a museum somewhere alongside an explanation of Cornwallis’s background.
“I’m sure we can move on from here and create a more inclusive society here in Nova Scotia for everybody.”
On Wednesday city workers began erecting scaffolding around the statue but did not indicate precisely when they will take the statue down.
Paul said he would like to see the city rename Cornwallis Park “Peace and Friendship Park, and perhaps put up a panel there explaining that it’s in memory of the treaties that were signed between the Colonial British and the Mi’kmaq in the 1750s and 1760s. That’s a part of history.”