A video by Justice Murray Sinclair
Edward Cornwallis is honoured as the founder of Halifax. A British military leader who issued bounties on Mi’kmaw scalps, his statue in a city park named in his honour has been at the centre of division and debate.
For years, the Mi’kmaq have fought to have his monument removed. It happened at the end of January — a celebratory moment for the Mi’kmaq.
“We’re in a time now of truth and reconciliation, and peace and friendship,” said Mi’kmaw activist Rebecca Moore, watching crews work to lift the statue from its pedestal.
“This is it being lived out, right now in this moment,” said Moore. “And I’m really, really happy and proud to be here and to be able to witness this.”
Overhead, an eagle circled as a crane lifted the statue from its granite base.
“For that eagle to come and fly right over us, just right the same moment as Cornwallis just got removed from his pedestal was just, it was very affirming to me,” said Moore.
This was a moment three decades in the making and the focus of an APTN Investigatesepisode, History Decolonized.
It started with Mi’kmaw Elder Dan Paul, who published “We Were Not the Savages” in 1993. Paul applied an Indigenous lens to the history of the Nova Scotia and it painted a vastly different picture.
“In his correspondence with the Lords of Trade in London, [Cornwallis] made it clear that it would be best to root the Mi’kmaq out of the peninsula of Nova Scotia for all time and forever,” said Paul.
“What kind of a man is that and why do we have a statue of him in the park?” asked Moore, just weeks before a sudden turn of events led to the statue’s removal.
It’s a question Halifax city council has wrestled with for years. And a question that sparks fierce debate, one echoed across the continent.
Last May, a speech by the Mayor of New Orleans on why the confederate monuments were being removed went viral.
“There is a difference, you see, between remembrance of history and the reverence of it,” said Mitch Landrieu.
In the United States, as monuments came down in 2017, racism ramped up.
In Charlottesville, Va., white supremacists protested the removal of Robert E. Lee’s statue. Counter rallies were held and violent clashes followed. It turned deadly after a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd of protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman.
Canada is hardly immune to the racist backlash when colonial history is questioned.
“We’re seeing this emergence of it in much bolder ways,” said El Jones, a professor, poet and activist in Halifax. “I’ve certainly experienced it myself, very much an increase in the intensity of harassment. So people who love me are like, don’t walk home alone.”
Jones said it intensifies around the topic of Cornwallis.
In council meetings over the past year, Halifax councillors have referenced the racist emails they’ve received on the topic of Cornwallis.
And whether it’s Cornwallis or one of the confederate monuments, the rhetoric often includes the line, “you can’t erase history.”
“Where’s our history, if you can’t erase history?” said Moore. “Only settler people, only the colonist can erase history? Because this land has a whole pre-colonial history, where’s our pre-colonial history? Nowhere. It’s like they think that the world started when they landed here. And it didn’t.”
“I always call it white amnesia,” said Jones. “Like, white people don’t have to reckon with history and they have the privilege to forget it.”
Halifax mayor Mike Savage said it’s important the city grapple with an uncomfortable history.
“This is a city like many cities that has been a victim of systemic racism. Not just against First Nations, but against African Nova Scotians as well,” said Savage. “And we can’t deny the history. We have to accept the history and learn from it.”
Before the statue came down, Savage called it an “impediment to progress.”
City council had struck a committee to explore issues around the commemoration of Cornwallis. Savage hoped it would be an avenue to education.
But after months of no action, the Mi’kmaw chiefs lost patience and pulled out and demanded the statue be removed immediately.
The grassroots moved quickly to plan a rally called “Removing Cornwallis.” City staff, fearing a potential conflict, recommended to council that the statue be taken down and put into storage.
Within days, the debate was back before council who voted overwhelmingly in support of removing Cornwallis.
“It’s down and it allows us to have that conversation we need to have on true reconciliation,” said Savage.
The Mi’kmaq held a rally at Cornwallis Park, standing where the statue had stood just days before.
“We removed Cornwallis!” cheered Mi’kmaw warrior Suzanne Patles, bullhorn in hand. “And look who stands in his place. Mi’kmaw women!”
What followed was drumming, smudging and a thank you to Dan Paul, for his tireless efforts to expose the Mi’kmaw narrative of a city built in the traditional, unceded territory of Mi’kma’ki.
“It hasn’t been as erasure of history,” Patles told the crowd. What we’re doing is, we’re refusing to be erased. ”
“The hidden history of Nova Scotia is out now,” said Paul. “Let’s move on and begin to build a future together.”
The 2018 Woodrow Lloyd Lecture
‘Truth and Reconciliation in Canada: If It Feels Good, It’s Not Reconciliation’
Presented by Pam Palmater
Mi’kmaw lawyer, author, social justice activist, and Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University
History of the Woodrow Lloyd Lecture
The Faculty of Arts is pleased to present an annual lecture in honour of Woodrow Stanley Lloyd (1913-1972), a dedicated public servant of Saskatchewan. Woodrow Lloyd served as the province’s eighth Premier (1961-1964) and also as Minister of Education (1944-1960). It was in this capacity that he played a formative role in the development of the modern day education system. In 1963, he laid the cornerstone of the first building on the Regina campus of the University of Saskatchewan, now the University of Regina. Throughout his career, Woodrow Lloyd’s voice emerged as one strongly in favour of the university as a space for innovation and catalyst for social change.
Said Woodrow Lloyd at the Canadian Education Association Convention of 1951, “Education needs courage. The very fact that education, if it is vital, leads to purposeful change, indicates the need for courage on the part of those who lead, because even purposeful change is always opposed. It is opposed by those who do not understand.”
The Woodrow Lloyd lecture is presented each Winter by the Faculty of Arts and funded by the generosity of the Woodrow Lloyd Trust Fund. Each lecture features a nationally or internationally recognized scholar, writer, thinker, and/or activist, who speaks on issues of direct relevance to Saskatchewan.
Past speakers have included former Premier of Saskatchewan Roy Romanow, noted climatologist Elane Wheaton, and author and Indigenous leader Cindy Blackstock.
Past Woodrow Lloyd Lectures
- 2017: Islamophobia and Muslim Women in Canada
Presented by Dr. Sheema Khan, Author and Global and Mail Columnist
A video of Dr. Khan’s lecture is available at: https://youtu.be/T6O92Oq3GYs
- 2016: Presented by The Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
A video of Justice Sinclair’s lecture is available on the Faculty of Arts YouTube channel at: https://youtu.be/PAwTjn4g3ZQ
- 2015: Reconciliation: the children’s version
by Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Associate Professor at the University of Alberta, as well as Director of the First Nations Children’s Action Research and Education Service (FNCARES) and as Executive Director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. View or download the lecture from the Faculty of Arts Youtube channel at http://youtu.be/K12lsqkh5No
- 2014: The Hedgehog, the Fox and Canadian Austerity
by Dr. Thom Workman, Professor, Political Science at the University of New Brunswick. View or download the lecture from the University’s oURspace website at http://hdl.handle.net/10294/5358
- 2013: Can Civil Disobedience Ensure Health Care Access for Drug Users?
by Ann Livingston, Social Justice Organizer
- 2012: Taking and Making Human Life: has healthcare replaced religion?
by Dr. Margaret Somerville, Samuel Gale Professor of Law, Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University
- 2011: Western Canadian Democracy: A backward and a forward look
by the Honorable Preston Manning, Founder of the Reform Party of Canada
- 2010: Transforming Power: New paths to social and political change
by Judy Rebick, CAW Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy at Ryerson University
- 2009: Subprime Constitutionalism: Why are we over-invested in the charter?
by Professor Harry Arthurs, Osgood Hall Law School, President Emeritus, York University
The Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission contained 94 Calls to Action that laid out a path to start the process of reconciliation. Yet according to Palmater, Canada’s approach to reconciliation has been more superficial than concrete. True reconciliation, she argues, won’t be found in land acknowledgments or Indigenizing public buildings with Indigenous artwork – it will only be found in the discomfort that comes with the exchange of land, wealth and power.
About Pam Palmater
Pam Palmater is a Mi’kmaw lawyer, author, and social justice activist from Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick. She is a former spokesperson, organizer and educator for the Idle No More movement and currently holds the Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University. She has 4 university degrees, including a BA from St. Thomas with a double major in History and Native Studies; an LLB from UNB, and her Masters and Doctorate in Law from Dalhousie University specializing in Indigenous law.
Pam has been volunteering and working in First Nation issues for over 25 years on a wide range of issues like poverty, housing, education, Aboriginal and treaty rights, and legislation impacting First Nations. She has worked as a human rights investigator at the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and worked collaboratively with human rights organizations like Canadian Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International on Indigenous issues.
She is a well-known speaker and media commentator and is frequently called as an expert before Parliamentary dealing with laws and policies impacting Indigenous peoples, and before United Nations committees on human rights of Indigenous peoples, particularly, Indigenous women and children. Her recent focus has been on murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls and sexualized violence in policing.
She has been recognized with many awards for her social justice and human rights advocacy on behalf of First Nations generally including the 2012 YWCA Woman of Distinction Award in Social Justice; Canadian Lawyer Magazine’s 2013 Top 5 Most Influential Lawyer in the Human Rights category; Margaret Mead Award in Social Justice 2016; J. S. Woodsworth Woman of Excellence Award in Human Rights 2016; and an Alumni Award of Distinction 2015 and honourary Doctorate of Laws from UNB 2016, as well as the 2017 Award for Excellence in Human Rights from the Atlantic Human Rights Centre at St. Thomas University.
Instructors seek open, honest dialogue with students about complicated issues
‘Ask me anything Indigenous,’ teachers say
IN the wake of cross-Canada outcry over the verdicts in the Gerald Stanley and Raymond Cormier trials, a pair of Winnipeg teachers are trying to explain the news and debunk stereotypes in the classroom with “ask me anything Indigenous” projects.
Christine M’Lot teaches Grades 10 and 12 English at University of Winnipeg Collegiate.
“With all the things going on in the media right now, the Colten Boushie (case), the Tina Fontaine (case), I knew that the students would be hearing about those things in the news, and so I thought it was the perfect time to start an Indigenous graphic novel and continue to talk about these things,” said the instructor, who hails from Winnipeg and has family ties to Swan Lake First Nation.
This term, her Grade 10 students are reading Secret Path, by Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire, while the Grade 12s are delving into The Life of Helen Betty Osborne: a Graphic Novel, by David Robertson and Madison Blackstone.
M’Lot also passes out slips of paper to her students at the start of class and tells them to write something down — whether it’s a question or not — for her to address later.
“I say, ‘Even if you’re not asking a question, you have to write something,’ just so students can’t figure out who wrote what,” M’Lot explained.
“I said, ‘Ask me anything Indigenous that you wouldn’t normally ask out loud — anything that you have in the back of your mind, even if you think it sounds racist or whatever. Just go ahead and ask, because this is a safe space and we’re going to discuss it.’” Some of the questions she’s fielded so far include: “Does racism against white people exist?” and “Why are so many people who kill Aboriginals let go?”
For queries that leave her stumped, she sometimes turns to her social networks for insight.
“I have a pretty strong network of brilliant Indigenous minds on my Facebook and Twitter, so there were a couple of questions where I wasn’t sure how to respond and so I got some feedback,” M’Lot said, citing the former question specifically.
Her Facebook friends weighed in, largely saying no, racism against white people does not exist due to current power and privilege structures in Canada. However, individual acts of discrimination can happen.
M’Lot borrowed the “ask me anything Indigenous” idea from her cousin and fellow instructor, Tara Williamson.
Williamson has taught at the postsecondary level for about seven years, working mostly in Ontario at Fleming College, Ryerson University/First Nations Technical Institute and Trent University.
Since September, she’s taught Indigenous studies at the University of Winnipeg, where a mandatory Indigenous course requirement took effect in September 2016. Students have to take three credit hours of Indigenous Studies to graduate.
“One of the goals of those classes is to debunk myths and stereotypes. So one of the easiest ways to do it is to address… questions coming from students, right? It’s not like I’m pulling them out of thin air,” said Williamson, who is a member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation and grew up in Swan Lake.
In her classroom, Williamson passes a large envelope around, soliciting anonymous questions about Indigenous topics. Many are curious about employment rates, substance use, treaty benefits and quality of life on reserves, she said.
The majority of her 250 or so students are non-Indigenous
and, for some, their instructor is the first Indigenous person they’ve met.
In the coming days, Williamson plans to dive into discussions on the justice system and how it disproportionately involves Indigenous people.
“I needed some time as a teacher and as an Indigenous person in the community… I needed some time and space to sort of wrap my head around how I was going to teach (about the Stanley trial), and so we’ll be broaching that subject this week,” she said.
Though she can’t quantifiably measure the impact of the Indigenous course requirement on U of W students yet, the instructor said she sees itmaking a positive difference.
“I don’t know if I want to call it a success yet, but I do think it’s having an impact. And we’re actually just… the university is in the process of figuring out how to evaluate exactly what that impact is,” Williamson said.
Both teachers acknowledged how recent stories, such as those about the Stanley and Cormier trials, can stir emotions for students and themselves.
In early February, a jury in Saskatchewan found Gerald Stanley — a white farmer — not guilty of second-degree murder in the 2016 shooting death of 22-year-old Cree man Colten Boushie.
Later that month, a jury in Winnipeg found Raymond Cormier not guilty of second-degree murder in the 2014 death of 15-year-old First Nations girl Tina Fontaine.
“I know this stuff is very triggering, because I feel triggered even. I see myself as Tina Fontaine when I was 15 and 16. That could have really easily been me as well,” M’Lot said.
“So, I know that it’s especially triggering for the Indigenous students, and I wanted them to know I care about this. This is important to discuss this in school.”
It’s been five years since Althea Guiboche started the work that would earn her the title of Winnipeg’s ‘Bannock Lady’.
What started off as just Guiboche handing out bannock to Winnipeg’s homeless in 2013 has grown to an effort that now sees her and volunteers not only giving out a warm meal to people in need, but also working to create a community — or a village — as Guiboche describes it.
The twice-a-month effort, known as Got Bannock?, marked its fifth anniversary this weekend.
Guiboche and supporters celebrated with a community dinner Sunday afternoon.
“It’s been a challenge but it’s been so much fun at the same time,” said Guiboche said during the party held at the Indian & Metis Friendship Centre. “It’s about networking and bringing people in together, sharing, caring and celebrating the village — it’s amazing.”
Guiboche started Got Bannock? after she found herself homeless with her three small children in 2011.
Got Bannock? was officially registered as a charity in 2017 and since her own time living on the streets, Guiboche has become a well-known advocate for Winnipeg’s most vulnerable.
The work has earned Guiboche a number of awards.
“In response to my own homelessness this is what I’ve done,” she said Sunday.
Food and community
Among the volunteers who came out to help serve dinner at Sunday’s celebration was Winnipeg-born Olympian Clara Hughes.
It’s the first time the former cyclist and speed skater has worked with Got Bannock?, something Hughes says fits right in with her work to raise awareness about mental health issues.
“It’s a fantastic program that is providing nourishment for this community,” Hughes said of Got Bannock?.
“Mental health issues manifest differently in every person but they affect more than one in five Canadians and when I look at what people need for wellness, food and nourishment is one thing and community is another thing… that is what is provided here.
“It all goes hand-in-hand, it’s all connected, so for me it’s just everything comes full-circle, and it comes back to human beings being good to each other.”
Got Bannock? serves up fresh meals on the first and third Sunday of every month, and Guiboche says each day sees 300 people fed.
Amazingly all that work is still done without a permanent facility for storage.
Guiboche says finding a space for storage and possibly opening a drop-in centre are among her plans for the charity going forward.
“There’s so many opportunities that can happen,” she said. “I’m not going to stop — I have to do this.”