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

  • 2 dead as storm triggers landslides, hits south China coast

    World News CTV News
    TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A powerful tropical storm swept across southern Taiwan, triggering landslides and flooding and leaving at least one dead before it hit southern China on Sunday morning, officials said. A 17-year-old died and two children were injured in another landslide in the northern Philippines on Saturday, authorities reported. Source
  • Federal NDP leader Singh makes stop in Edmonton, party's lone Alberta riding

    Canada News CBC News
    Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh visited the party's lone riding in Alberta on Saturday in an effort to build momentum in the province ahead of the fall election. The New Democrats have failed to translate strong support for the Alberta NDP into gains at the federal level. Source
  • Large explosion shakes Hezbollah stronghold in south Beirut

    World News CTV News
    BEIRUT - People in southern Beirut say a large explosion has shaken a Hezbollah stronghold and triggered a fire. The nature of the blast early Sunday was not immediately clear. Some residents said it may have been caused by an Israeli drone that went down in the area. Source
  • NASA investigating what could be first-ever space crime: report

    World News CTV News
    An American astronaut is at the centre of what could be the first crime in space after she admitted to accessing her estranged wife’s bank account from the International Space Station. Decorated NASA pilot Anne McClain, who was on a six-month mission aboard the ISS at the time of the incident, acknowledges accessing the account but denies any wrongdoing, according to a report from The New York Times. Source
  • NASA investigating what may be first allegation of crime in space: report

    World News CTV News
    An American astronaut is at the centre of what could be the first allegation of a crime in space after she admitted to accessing her estranged wife’s bank account from the International Space Station. Decorated NASA pilot Anne McClain, who was on a six-month mission aboard the ISS at the time of the incident, acknowledges accessing the account but denies any wrongdoing, according to a report from The New York Times. Source
  • Police say man left photocopy of his face after alleged break-in

    Canada News CTV News
    Toronto police are asking for help identifying a man who allegedly broke into a commercial property and left a photocopy of his face behind. Police say they were called to the property on Friday for a break and enter in the city's north end. Source
  • Democrats vote against holding debate on climate change

    World News CTV News
    SAN FRANCISCO -- The Democratic National Committee on Saturday quashed a push from climate activists and some national party members who want a 2020 presidential primary debate devoted exclusively to the climate crisis. The national party committee voted 222-137 at its summer meeting in San Francisco against a resolution that effectively would have rolled back debate rules set by Chairman Tom Perez and freed presidential candidates to participate in a climate-only debate. Source
  • Israel strikes at Iranian forces over Damascus to take down alleged armed drones

    World News CBC News
    Israeli aircraft on Saturday struck Iranian forces near Damascus that were allegedly planning to launch armed drones at targets in Israel, an Israeli military spokesperson said. "The strike targeted Iranian Quds Force operatives and Shia militias, which were preparing to advance attack plans targeting sites in Israel from within Syria over the last number of days," the military said in a statement. Source
  • Tropical storm Dorian forms in Atlantic, likely to strengthen

    World News CBC News
    Here are the latest Key Messages on Tropical Storm <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Dorian?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Dorian</a>. Tropical Storm or Hurricane watches may be needed for portions of the Lesser Antilles on Sunday. The latest info is available at <a href="https://t.co/tW4KeFW0gB">https://t.co/tW4KeFW0gB</a> <a href="https://t.co/3p5kxwCSUo">pic.twitter.com/3p5kxwCSUo</a>&mdash;@NHC_Atlantic Source
  • French police fire tear gas at G7 protesters

    World News CTV News
    French police used tear gas and water cannon to break up anti-G7 protesters in the southern city of Bayonne on Saturday, as leaders from the world's leading industrialised nations arrived for their summit just a few kilometres away in Biarritz. Source