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

  • Stormy Daniels testifies on Avenatti: 'He lied to me and betrayed me'

    World News CTV News
    Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actress who was allegedly defrauded by Michael Avenatti, testified Thursday in federal court as part of the criminal trial against the celebrity attorney. Daniels testified that Avenatti said he was going to get "a big payday" from winning her lawsuit against then-U.S. Source
  • New York City mayor can hire brother, but only for US$1, ethics board says

    World News CTV News
    A New York City ethics panel has agreed that Mayor Eric Adams can hire his brother as a senior security adviser, but only at US$1 per year and with no power over department personnel. The decision by the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board, made public on Thursday, follows an uproar that erupted after Adams sought to hire his younger brother Bernard as a deputy police commissioner at a yearly salary of $240,000. Source
  • U.S. judge denies media ban ahead of cop's trial over Breonna Taylor raid

    World News CTV News
    LOUISVILLE, KY. -- A judge on Thursday denied a request from a Louisville police officer who took part in the deadly raid on Breonna Taylor's home to bar the media from part of his upcoming trial. Source
  • Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti square off as he questions her directly during his fraud trial

    World News CBC News
    Stormy Daniels took the witness stand Thursday at Michael Avenatti's trial, telling a jury she was "very, very angry" and felt "betrayed and stupid" when she was told that the California lawyer she had teamed up with against former U.S. Source
  • Windsor-Essex paramedics' union tweets opposition to vaccine mandates; says they are based on lies

    Canada News CBC News
    In a series of tweets, the union representing Windsor-Essex paramedics suggest that people who support a vaccine mandate are "authoritarian" and have a "propensity for evil." The strongly worded tweets reject vaccine mandates, calling the policies an attack on freedom, say they are based on lies and tell people to oppose them. Source
  • Could single-family lots soon hold as many as 6 homes? Vancouver real estate pitch gets tentative nod

    Canada News CTV News
    A proposal that could see as many as six homes packed into what are currently single-family lots in Vancouver is moving forward after a tentative nod from city council this week. Council voted in favour Wednesday night of asking city staff to look into a pitch from the mayor to rezone some properties. Source
  • 5 children, including 1 in critical condition, among 9 hospitalized after Winnipeg house fire

    Canada News CBC News
    Nine people are in hospital, including a child in critical condition, after a house fire on Thursday morning. The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service responded to a blaze in the single-storey residence on Simcoe Street, between St. Matthews Avenue and Portage Avenue, just before 6 a.m. Source
  • GoFundMe releasing $1 million of fundraising money to trucker convoy

    Canada News CTV News
    GoFundMe is releasing an initial $1 million in fundraising money to the organizers of the trucker convoy protesting vaccine mandates, after the website had temporarily frozen the funds earlier this week. In a statement to CTV News, a GoFundMe spokesperson said the organizers have provided a plan for the money’s distribution to cover the costs of gas for those planning to protest this weekend at Parliament Hill. Source
  • Canada Post moving to surgical masks for all employees

    Canada News CTV News
    Canada Post is now offering employees upgraded medical procedure masks for their shifts and anyone wishing to wear their own mask will have to double up. In a statement on Thursday, a spokesperson for Canada Post said the move away from “three-ply reusable cloth masks, or disposable medical masks” is part of the company’s “ongoing efforts to enhance pandemic safety measures. Source
  • Who are among some possible top U.S. Supreme Court justice contenders?

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's retirement gives U.S. President Joe Biden a chance to make his first nomination to the high court. It's also a chance for Biden to fulfill a campaign promise to nominate the first Black woman to be a justice. Source