Since 2008, Mi’kmaq leader Keptin John Joe Sark, a member of the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of Prince Edward Island has been demanding that the PEI government take action to have the name of Jeffrey Amherst – a notorious British General responsible for distributing blankets infected with smallpox amongst the Mi’kmaq and other Indigenous peoples in the 18th Century – removed from the historic site at Port-la-Joye at Rocky Point, across the harbour from Charlottetown.
Keptin Sark also points out that his protest about the monument is also against the current Liberal government in PEI, which has failed to respect the hereditary rights of the Mi’kmaq, particularly on the matter of respecting land rights on Mi’kmaq traditional territory. The provincial government has refused to help Keptin Sark, pointing out that matters related to National Historic Sites are a federal matter. In early May this year, Keptin Sark returned the Order of PEI that he had been awarded to the provincial legislature.
In making his case, Keptin Sark points out that to keep the name of Amherst on the historic site is an insult to the Mi’kmaq and all Indigenous peoples as he was a “tyrant” who not only engaged in the historically documented military slaughter of the Mi’kmaq and other Indigenous peoples, but in 1763 ordered the distribution of smallpox-infected blankets among them to kill men, women and children.
The Trudeau Liberals have also refused to show respect to the Mi’kmaq and other Indigenous peoples and remove the name of Amherst immediately. Keptin Sark notes that he has sent several requests to the Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Catherine McKenna, proposing several Mi’kmaq names to replace that of Amherst, to no avail.
In a recent letter to the Charlottetown Guardian, Parks Canada writes: “It is important to note that the site does not commemorate or celebrate the actions of Jeffery Amherst […]
“The historic place names attached to the site commemorate events that took place there while it served as the seat of government for French and then British colonial governments…”
Acknowledging the crimes of a particular British colonial military or civil administrator such as Amherst is not simply a matter of replacing one name on Canadian historical sites for another more appropriate one. The intransigence of the Liberals in power both in PEI and at the federal level is to justify the crimes being committed by the Canadian colonial state against Indigenous peoples today.
TML Weekly calls on everyone to join the campaign to remove the name of Jeffrey Amherst from the historic site at Port-la-Joye, PEI. Write or call Catherine McKenna, the Minister responsible for Parks Canada and demand action: Catherine.McKenna@parl.gc.ca; Twitter – @cathmckenna; Telephone – (613) 996-5322.
All places in Canada that use this name should be changed.
(With files from the Charlottetown Guardian)
Source: TML Weekly, June 3, 2017 – No. 20, slightly revised.