Debate grows over statues of historical figures that some see as racist

HALIFAX -- The debate over whether to knock statues of controversial figures off their pedestals has erupted again in Canada, as history writers and academics in two cities differ over how the present should influence the honouring of the past.

See Full Article

The fight over monuments was revived recently in Nova Scotia when the province's premier said he'd like to meet with Halifax's mayor about a figure of Edward Cornwallis that towers over a south end park.

The plaque notes that Cornwallis founded the city in the 1700s, but doesn't mention a scalping proclamation he issued against the Mi'kmaq which promised "a reward of ten Guineas for every Indian Micmac taken or killed, to be paid upon producing such Savage taken or his scalp."

Some historians, such as David Bercuson at the University of Calgary, caution against judging the actions of the past with the standards of the present.

But Jon Tattrie, the author of Cornwallis: the violent birth of Halifax, says he counts himself among Canadians who want to see a more diverse depiction of their past in public spaces.

"Shouldn't our publicly funded art be about education and not about propaganda from one point of view? It's about wanting more voices heard and more perspectives woven together," he said.

"Really, the solitudes that our generation is charged with bridging is between European cultures and First Nations cultures."

He said he's sympathetic to the perspective of Daniel Paul, a Mi'kmaq elder and author who has argued the monument should be shifted from its position in the centre of the city into a military museum on Citadel Hill.

Premier Stephen McNeil, who is also the minister of aboriginal affairs, has said the Liberal government will work with municipalities and the Mi'kmaq "to ensure that our history is reflected, but done so in a respectful way."

In Ontario, the discussion has centred around the installation of a series of statues of prime ministers on the campus of Wilfrid Laurier University.

Jonathan Finn, a faculty member leading the charge against the project, says a group of students and academics object to the project for a variety of reasons, including the record of Sir John A. Macdonald regarding aboriginal Canadians.

The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada concluded that Macdonald's government espoused policies of "cultural genocide" that separated many aboriginal children from their families.

"This is a program of representation that does something, in celebrating only white males, that we've moved away from decades and decades ago," said Finn.

A spokeswoman for the university said in an email that an advisory committee is reviewing options for the project and will present its findings to the board of governors.

Lori Chalmers Morrison says that when the project received initial approval, it considered the possibility of extending the project to other leaders, including aboriginal and female role models from history.

Bercuson, who teaches at the University of Calgary, says he's wary of assessing past misdeeds through a modern lens.

"It is a difficult yardstick to measure people's actions by. We have to be extremely careful about how we want to cleanse our history," he said in an interview.

"I'm Jewish. What do I do about John A. Macdonald? He was a vicious anti-Semite. Am I advocating that his name be chiselled off of buildings and we take him off our money, no I'm not."

"We have to study him for what he was. See him in the fullness of his existence and draw our own conclusions about what kind of person he was. We have to remember he helped to build the country."

John Boileau, a former military officer and the author of several books of military history, has attended Tattrie's public talks on his Cornwallis book and criticized his viewpoint.

"I think they should leave well enough alone," he says. "The warfare ... was brutal. Men, women and children were killed on both sides," he said in an interview.

Boileau said one of his greatest concerns is over where the push to remove historical monuments will end.

"(George) Washington owned slaves. (Thomas) Jefferson owned slaves. Are you going to knock their faces off various bills?"



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • N.S. premier calls an election

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    HALIFAX — Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil has called a provincial election for May 30, seeking a second consecutive mandate from voters. McNeil dropped the writ this afternoon after meeting with Lt.-Gov. J.J. Grant at Government House in Halifax. Source
  • Suspected U.S. airstrike kills 4 al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen

    World News CTV News
    SANAA, Yemen -- A suspected U.S. airstrike killed four al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen's eastern province of Marib on Sunday, Yemeni tribal and security officials said. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media, say the operatives killed were driving a car when an unmanned aircraft targeted their vehicle. Source
  • Tornadoes, flooding kill at least 6 in parts of U.S. South, Midwest [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    CANTON, Texas — Severe storms including tornadoes have swept through several small towns in East Texas, leaving a trail of overturned vehicles, mangled trees and damaged homes. Authorities believe at least four people were killed and dozens injured, though they were still assessing the damage from the storms that swept through an area about 50 miles (80 kilometres) east of Dallas on Saturday evening. Source
  • Emotional encounter between organ recipient and donor family

    Canada News CTV News
    On Saturday Saskatoon’s Jillian Langen, 28, finally met the family of the person who saved her life. “It’s almost like meeting family that you didn’t know you had,” Langen told CTV Saskatoon. Langen had been suffering from cystic fibrosis which had destroyed her lungs when she received a double lung transplant from 23-year-old Leanne Germain, who had died in Feb. Source
  • Trump warns North Korea's missiles will get better

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of -- U.S. President Donald Trump said after North Korea's latest failed rocket launch that communist leader Kim Jong-Un will eventually develop better missiles, and "we can't allow it to happen." In a taped interview broadcast Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation," the president would not discuss the possibility of military action, saying: "It is a chess game. Source
  • Donald Trump: Kim Jong Un 'a pretty smart cookie' for being able to hold onto power

    World News Toronto Sun
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — U.S. President Donald Trump said in a television interview to be aired Sunday that he believes China’s president has been putting pressure on North Korea as it pursues its missile and nuclear weapons programs. Source
  • Search continues for Canadian woman missing in Belize

    Canada News CTV News
    A group of expats are searching along small roads, trails and in the bush of a town in Belize where a Canadian woman and her American boyfriend were reported missing, a friend said. Joe Milholen said he was supposed to take Francesca Matus, 52, to the airport Wednesday morning to fly back to Canada. Source
  • Nova Scotians to go to the polls on May 30

    Canada News CBC News
    Nova Scotians are heading to the polls on Tuesday, May 30. The election call came Sunday after Premier Stephen McNeil visited Lt.-Gov. J.J. Grant and requested he dissolve the current House of Assembly. The 30-day campaign is the minimum allowed under Nova Scotia's election laws. Source
  • Nova Scotia election to be held Tuesday, May 30

    Canada News CBC News
    Nova Scotians are heading to the polls on Tuesday, May 30. The election call came Sunday after Premier Stephen McNeil visited Lt.-Gov. J.J. Grant and requested he dissolve the current House of Assembly. The 30-day campaign is the minimum allowed under Nova Scotia's election laws. Source
  • 'Heartbreaking' destruction from deadly Texas tornadoes [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    CANTON, Texas — Severe storms including tornadoes have swept through several small towns in East Texas, leaving a trail of overturned vehicles, mangled trees and damaged homes. Authorities believe at least four people were killed and dozens injured, though they were still assessing the damage from the storms that swept through an area about 50 miles (80 kilometres) east of Dallas on Saturday evening. Source