Protesters gather at Halifax Cornwallis statue in reaction to U.S. violence
Jeff Lagerquist, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, August 15, 2017 7:36PM EDT
Protesters are gathering around a controversial statue of Edward Cornwallis in a Halifax park as a display of support for those who disrupted the “Unite the Right” event in Charlottesville, Va.
The protest, dubbed “Against white supremacy! Against the far-right! Solidarity with Charlottesville!” is intended to call attention to how historical figures can serve as a “rallying point for racism.”
“Public monuments to racist violence serve as flashpoints around which the far-right can organize,” a protest organizer, who declined to give a name for fear of backlash, told CTV Atlantic.
Last Saturday in Charlottesville, a 32-year old woman was killed and 19 others were hurt when a speeding car slammed into a crowd of people protesting white supremacists. Members of the Ku Klux Klan, white nationalists, and other far-right groups violently clashed with counter-demonstrators over the city’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Halifax’s monument to Cornwallis, the city’s founder known for offering a bounty for Mi’kmaq scalps in response to attacks on colonists in the 1700s, has been a flashpoint for similar tensions in Canada that have yet to erupt into violence.
Mount Saint Vincent University sociology and anthropology professor Alex Khasnabish said comparisons between the two generals are not unfounded in this case.
“What we have are monuments to men who are admittedly complicated historical figures, but for all intents and purposes represent histories of white colonization, white displacement, and in fact genocide unleashed on the people of these territories,” he said as protesters gathered in Halifax. “That is why we are here tonight.”
Last month, protesters pledged to remove the Cornwallis monument. The city temporarily covered it with a tarp, which has since been removed. Some members of the Mi’kmaq community have also called for the removal of Halifax’s various tributes to Cornwallis, in addition to the statue.
Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said she defers to the views of local Mi'kmaq leaders on the presence of the monument while visiting the province last week for a meeting with Nova Scotia chiefs and MPs to discuss increased self-government for Mi'kmaq communities.
The Cornwallis statue made headlines last month when members of a U.S.-based ultra-conservative group, who were later identified as Canadian Forces members, disrupted a First Nations protest and ceremony on Canada Day.
With a report from CTV Atlantic and files from The Canadian Press