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

  • Oscar Pistorius's sentence more than doubled to 13 years, 5 months

    World News CBC News
    South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal on Friday increased Oscar Pistorius's murder sentence to 13 years and five months after the state argued that his original sentence of six years was "shockingly lenient." Pistorius was imprisoned in July last year after being found guilty on appeal of murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day 2013 in a case that attracted worldwide interest. Source
  • Hamilton school bus driver charged in alleged abduction of 14-year-old girl

    Canada News CTV News
    Hamilton police say a 70-year-old school bus driver is facing abduction charges after several alleged incidents involving a 14-year-old girl. Police allege the developmentally delayed girl was abducted four times in late October while being driven to and from school in the city's east end. Source
  • China reports breaking up gang that moved $3 billion abroad

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING - Chinese police say they have broken up a gang that smuggled 20 billion yuan ($3 billion) out of the country, evading financial controls imposed by Beijing to stem an outflow of capital from the economy. Source
  • Texas trooper killed during traffic stop; suspect arrested

    World News CTV News
    FAIRFIELD, Texas - A Texas state trooper was shot and killed during a traffic stop in East Texas on Thanksgiving. The Texas Department of Public Safety released a statement on its Twitter account Thursday night identifying the trooper as Damon Allen, 41. Source
  • Chinese authorities look into kindergarten abuse claims

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING - Chinese authorities are investigating allegations that children attending a kindergarten in Beijing run by a U.S.-listed company have been abused and molested. The Beijing Municipal Commission of Education said Friday it would inspect kindergartens in the Chinese capital, a day after the reports drew widespread attention. Source
  • Firefighters who responded to Mississauga explosion receive Medals of Bravery

    Canada News CTV News
    Paramedics and firefighters who responded to a massive warehouse explosion in Mississauga, Ont. were among those honoured for their bravery at an awards ceremony at Rideau Hall on Thursday. Eleven first-responders from across central Ontario rushed to the explosion on April 23, 2014. Source
  • U.S. navy ends search for 3 sailors missing after plane crash

    World News CBC News
    The search has ended for three sailors missing in the Philippine Sea since a U.S. navy aircraft crashed on Wednesday, the navy said Friday. The C-2A "Greyhound" transport aircraft was travelling to the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier when it crashed. Source
  • 8 thought to be North Korean fishermen wash ashore in Japan

    World News CTV News
    TOKYO -- Japanese police said Friday they are investigating eight men found on Japan's northern coast who say they are from North Korea and washed ashore after their boat broke down. Akita prefectural police found the men late Thursday after receiving a call that suspicious men were standing around at the seaside in Yurihonjo town. Source
  • Flynn lawyers make a break with Trump team: AP source

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Lawyers for former U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn have told U.S. President Donald Trump's legal team that they are no longer communicating with them about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference. Source
  • Kevin Rubletz guilty of second-degree murder in death of Jessica Newman

    Canada News CBC News
    A Calgary jury has found Kevin Rubletz guilty of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of his former girlfriend Jessica Newman. Members of Newman's family shed tears as the verdict was read Thursday evening in a Calgary courtroom. Source