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Letter to the Halifax mayor and councillors: We are all treaty people

Dear Mayor and Councillors,

I am a 60 year old retired teacher convinced that the Cornwallis statue needs to be removed. The more I learn about Halifax’s history, the more I realize that this is not about who scalped whom first, as seems to be a current focus of this debate.

Photo Simon de Vet

Edward Cornwallis broke long-standing treaties with the Mi’kmaq nation by locating the new capital in this area, which had been an important hunting and religious gathering place as well as the headway of a key travel route (the Shubenacadie). He did not have permission of the Mi’kmaq people to build his settlement here and this illegal act resulted in hostilities as the Mi’kmaq sought to protect the land they occupied and Cornwallis enacted strategies of terror he first developed in the highlands of Scotland. This and subsequent violations of the treaties continue to interfere with harmonious relationships.

This is not about rewriting history. Edward Cornwallis was little known or celebrated until the late 1920s. Then and now, his actions have not warranted his place of prominence in the park.

We are all treaty people and we all have an obligation to live according to the terms of the treaties, according the Canada’s Supreme Court. The history I was taught and which I taught my students ignored the fundamentals of this period of Halifax’s history. You have a chance on Tuesday evening to begin to right years of wrong by placing the symbol of this treaty violation and subsequent atrocity where it belongs, in history books and a museum, not on a pedestal in a public park. Please make the decision to remove or relocate this statue in time for us all to truly celebrate Treaty Day together in October.

Thank you,
Carolyn van Gurp

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