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

  • Quebec man, 63, dies after police chase ends in multi-vehicle crash

    Canada News CTV News
    TROIS-RIVIERES, Que. - Quebec's police watchdog is investigating after a 63-year-old man died following a police chase that ended in a multi-vehicle crash. The investigations unit says its information suggests the victim was in a vehicle that was hit by a fleeing driver who was being pursued by a Trois-Rivieres police officer. Source
  • 8 dead after Missouri tourist boat accident, sheriff says

    World News CBC News
    A sheriff in Missouri says a tourist boat has apparently capsized on a lake, leaving eight people dead and several others hospitalized. The Springfield News-Leader reports that Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader says the accident occurred Thursday night after a Ride the Ducks tourist boat reportedly sank on Table Rock Lake with more than 30 people on board. Source
  • Tornadoes sweep through Iowa; major damage and some injuries

    World News CTV News
    DES MOINES, Iowa -- A flurry of tornadoes that formed unexpectedly swept through central Iowa Thursday, injuring at least 17 people, flattening buildings in three cities and forcing the evacuation of a hospital. The tornadoes hit Marshalltown, Pella and Bondurant as surprised residents ran for cover. Source
  • No decision on B.C. school stabbing suspect's mental fitness for trial

    Canada News CTV News
    COQUITLAM, B.C. -- A review board failed to reach a decision Thursday on whether a man accused of stabbing a 13-year-old girl to death inside her Abbotsford, B.C., high school is mentally fit to stand trial. Source
  • More than 300 older children split at U.S.-Mexico border reunited with families

    World News CTV News
    SAN DIEGO -- The Trump administration said Thursday that it has reunified 364 children ages 5 and older with their families after they were separated at the border, still leaving hundreds to go before a court-imposed deadline a week away. Source
  • World's translators push back on forcing Trump interpreter to testify

    World News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Canadian translators and their international counterparts say their work should be treated as strictly confidential and they shouldn't be compelled to testify about the private conversations they hear. The declaration comes as U.S. Source
  • Nicaragua's president celebrates crackdown on opposition

    World News CTV News
    MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- President Daniel Ortega used Thursday's 39th anniversary of the 1979 revolution against dictator Anastasio Somoza to celebrate strengthening his grip on power after three months of anti-government protests and to attack Nicaragua's Roman Catholic Church as allies of "coup mongers. Source
  • Global slavery report slams North Korea, repressive regimes

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- Modern slavery is most prevalent in North Korea and other repressive regimes, but developed nations also bear responsibility for it because they import $350 billion worth of goods that are produced under suspicious circumstances, according to research released Thursday. Source
  • Former radio shock-jock sympathizes with downfall of Dave Wheeler

    Canada News CBC News
    Former shock-jock radio star Dean Blundell says he can sympathize with the unceremonious downfall of Winnipeg radio host Dave Wheeler, who was fired this week after making offensive comments about transgender people. Several years after his own ignoble descent from Toronto's popular 102.1 The Edge, Blundell says he understands times have changed and that on-air jokes about race, gender and sexual orientation are just not acceptable: "It's another wake-up call for everybody else. Source
  • Driver, 60, charged for 'intentionally' hitting 85-year-old pedestrian known to her

    Canada News CBC News
    A 60-year-old woman has been charged with aggravated assault after an 85-year-old woman was struck by a vehicle Wednesday at a west Edmonton KFC restaurant. The driver and the victim "are known to one another," police said in a news release Thursday. Source