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.
The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) is calling on all young people to Imagine a Canada through the lens of Reconciliation! What is your vision of Reconciliation? What does it look like?
Imagine a Canada is an invitation for all young people, from across the country, from kindergarten to post-secondary, to share their own vision of what Reconciliation can be. It can be a poem, a song, a painting, a sculpture, a rap, a drawing, an essay, anything!
A Great Educational Tool
Teachers, this is a great way to build upon the momentum of Orange Shirt day. Imagine a Canada is perfect for students, from kindergarten to post-secondary, to explore both the past and our shared journey into the future. Collectively, we want to be looking into the future of Reconciliation and youth deserve to be a part of this visionary exercise. Imagine a Canada is a great way for young people to see themselves not just as concerned citizens, but as transformative citizens; to empower them to be the change they want to see in the world.
In the coming weeks and months, we will be releasing Teachers’ Guides and materials to help you support students in preparing their Imagine a Canada submissions.
Friends and partners of the NCTR from across the country will help recognize and honour submissions in each region of the country and one entry from each province and territory will be selected to attend a national celebration of Imagine a Canada!
For more info, click here!
Here is the link to the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba Video Gallery where you will find numerous videos to use in your classroom. Below are just 2 of the many videos available for your use.
What are treaties and why are treaties still relevant?
A WInnipeg School DIvision Teacher’s perspective on bringing Treaty Education into the classroom.
Reserve 107 includes a documentary with study guides and additional resources included on the website.
ABOUT THE DOCUMENTARY RESERVE 107
For decades, stories have spread throughout the village of Laird, Saskatchewan. It has been said that First Nation descendants of an old treaty have visited shopkeepers and town officials. The First Nations that came to the town, starting in the 1970s, insisted that a treaty signed between their people and the government of Canada states the land of the locals actually belong to an Indigenous First Nation. But when a group of Mennonites and Lutherans in the town of Laird discover that the land they live on is in fact the former reserve of the Young Chippewayan First Nation, they are forced to acknowledge the history that has brought them to their present confrontation. A chief and descendant of the Young Chippewayan Band decide to invite the local community to a meeting at the central site of the former reserve as members in the town remain on edge. But an inevitable encounter at the towns historic site compels the characters into a surprising discovery. Myths, assumptions and fears are shattered as this old injustice is about to provide an opportunity for friendship and renew a fierce determination to repair the wrongs of the past.