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The Cornwallis statue must come down for reconciliation to even begin

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Before the City of Halifax can even begin to think about reconciliation it must tear the Cornwallis statue down. Appointing a panel to talk about the pros and cons of a statue has nothing to do with reconciliation.

“The government and the Canadian people have fallen in love with reconciliation. They do not really understand the concept, but they truly love that word. Everything is reconciliation. When they join a round dance, they call that reconciliation. When their eyes tear up in discussing our poverty, that is reconciliation.” Arthur Manuel – The reconciliation manifesto

Photo Simon de Vet

According to a Chronicle Herald story this weekend, Mayor Mike Savage says that now that the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs has asked Halifax Council to remove the Cornwallis statue immediately, the City will just find other Indigenous people to reconcile with. Better Indigenous people, presumably.

“This is a different process than any we’ve undertaken before. The committee was meant to create the space to have challenging conversations about our shared history and future. Reconciliation is a complex process, requiring the engagement of our community in its broadest form,” reads a statement issued by Mayor Mike Savage in response to the Mi’kmaq Chiefs refusal to participate further.

“All that talk about respect and reconciliation is self-serving rhetoric, because if the prime minister and the premiers actually respected Indigenous peoples, they would recognize that they must first respect and affirm our Indigenous rights to our lands before real reconciliation is even logically possible.”  Arthur Manuel – The reconciliation manifesto    

Reconciliation comes into play only after white Canadians come to terms with the fact that we live on stolen land, that we acquired that land through genocide and forced assimilation, that we justified these actions using racist reasoning, and that we are merely guests here in unceded Mi’kma’ki. And only after we commit to make things right.

Here we have this statue of a fellow who put a bounty on the scalps of Mi’kmaq, including women and children, an occupier who had no business being here. A statue that stands on unceded Mi’kmaq territory. And we’re asking Mi’kmaq, with wounds still raw from the sixties scoop, the damage of the residential schools, the loss of their missing and murdered women, the ongoing neglect, to just bear with us while we have us some “challenging conversations.”

Halifax Council voted in April of last year to set up this panel. It’s almost April again, and in ten months nothing was accomplished. What message does that send?

What we do have now is a letter of the Mi’kmaq Chiefs asking for the immediate removal of the statue, adding their voice to a grassroots movement that has been asking for this for a long time.

So let’s tear the damn thing down, and let reconciliation begin.

The quotes are from The reconciliation manifesto, by Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald Derrickson, an excellent book.

On Sunday February 4  at noon there will be a rally to show the world people in Halifax want the statue removed. That rally will happen at the statue, of course.

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One Comment

  1. The City takes away an old broken down park bench; the library throws out tattered or coverless books; old buses are taken off the roads — why can’t the city take down the Cornwallis statue?

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