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

  • Stray bullet travels through window killing boy eating snack

    World News CTV News
    LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Police in Kentucky say a stray bullet fired during an outdoor fight travelled through the window of a nearby home, killing a 7-year-old who was eating a bedtime snack at his kitchen table. Source
  • Trump greeted with selfies and politics on arrival in Israel

    World News CTV News
    JERUSALEM -- U.S. President Donald Trump got an abrupt Israeli welcome on his arrival in Tel Aviv on Monday, with ministers asking favours and snapping selfies as they sought to get a piece of the commander in chief's attention. Source
  • UN envoy: All Syria parties agree to talks on constitution

    World News CTV News
    For the first time, all parties to Syria's conflict -- including the divided opposition -- have agreed to take part in expert talks to help lay the foundation for a new constitution, the UN special envoy for the country said Monday. Source
  • Iranian president calls U.S. relations 'a curvy road'

    World News CTV News
    TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's newly re-elected President Hassan Rouhani on Monday called relations with the United States "a curvy road," saying he hoped the Trump administration will "settle down" enough for his nation to better understand it. Source
  • Boy, 14, drowns in Newfoundland pond after canoe overturns

    Canada News CTV News
    GANDER, N.L. -- A 14-year-old boy has drowned after a canoe was overturned in a pond in Newfoundland and Labrador. Police say three teens were canoeing in Vardy's Pond near Gander when the boat tipped over on Sunday afternoon. Source
  • Turkey slams U.S. over ‘aggressive’ acts against bodyguards

    World News Toronto Sun
    ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey summoned the U.S. ambassador on Monday to protest what it called “aggressive and unprofessional actions” by American security personnel against Turkish bodyguards in Washington during President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit last week. The action appeared to be in retaliation to calls in the U.S. Source
  • Leaked Facebook documents show types of content it allows, says report

    World News CBC News
    Leaked Facebook documents show how the social media company moderates issues such as hate speech, terrorism, pornography and self-harm on its platform, the Guardian reported, citing internal guidelines seen by the newspaper. New challenges such as "revenge porn" have overwhelmed Facebook's moderators, who often have just 10 seconds to make a decision, the Guardian said. Source
  • Bill Cosby 'looking forward' to trial as jury selection in sex assault case begins

    World News CBC News
    A Temple University basketball team manager's complaint that famous alumnus Bill Cosby drugged and molested her when she went to his home outside Philadelphia for career advice in 2004 will soon go before a Pennsylvania jury. Source
  • Game hunter crushed by elephant he shot

    World News Toronto Sun
    Always keep your eyes on the prize. One hunter learned that the hard way. Theunis Botha, 51, was killed in Zimbabwe on Friday when he was crushed to death by an elephant cow he just shot. According to the U.K. Source
  • Mentally ill dad who killed three kids up for review in British Columbia

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- The case of a British Columbia man found not criminally responsible for killing his three children because of a mental illness is up for review, two years after a provincial board opened the door to him receiving supervised day trips. Source