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Op-ed: Removing Cornwallis — A little civil disobedience is a beautiful thing

Germany, 1945. “We can’t remove our Hitler statues. It’s part of our history! How about we keep the statues and put up a plaque to reflect the Jewish perspective?”

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Here’s hoping a lot of allies show up this Saturday at noon to imagine what our beautiful city would look like without a Cornwallis statue, and who knows, make that vision a reality.

Photo Robert Devet

The organizers of the Removing Cornwallis event are absolutely correct in their assessment that waiting for City council to do the right thing isn’t realistic. The previous Council didn’t even want to investigate the idea. This year a slightly more progressive group of councillors agreed to get some experts to further study the idea, with lots of qualifiers by some of the more reluctant council members. That happened in late April. Almost two months later no experts have been hired.  

That Hitler analogy isn’t as much over the top as you probably think. What Cornwallis stood for may have been historically less impactful, in essence there was no difference.

Imagine being Jewish and having to walk by a Hitler statue on your way to work. Or having to explain to your child who that man was and why the statue.

Yet the wounds of the Mi’kmaq are still equally raw. The sixties scoop, the residential schools, the missing and murdered women, the ongoing neglect, this isn’t ancient history, it’s lived today, and to our Mi’kmaw friends Cornwallis is just as offensive and hurtful.

What is missing in the current City Hall discussions around the Cornwallis legacy is a sense of urgency.

“But this talk of taking things in your own hands will rub people the wrong way, and we will lose allies,” so goes the argument.

Well, sometimes you’re better off ignoring these people. Well intentioned people will come along eventually. The racists and proud boys of this world will never change, so we don’t care about them.

Throughout history repressed people have said enough is enough and taken things in their own hands. Without that happening our world would be a very grim place indeed. What we need at this point in time in Halifax is just a little bit of that civil disobedience and move things along.  

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