Canada 150: Activities in Halifax call for rededication of Cornwallis Genocide Park

Activists hold 600-strong rally in Halifax on July 15, 2017 as the statue of Cornwallis is covered with black cloth.

(July 15) – TML Weekly applauds the people of Nova Scotia who organized the “Removing Cornwallis” Activities in Halifax this July 15. One of their demands is to rename the Cornwallis Genocide Park to the Halifax Peace and Freedom Park.

The proposal was first made on November 21, 2009 when some 200 people gathered at a rally in the park to oppose the inaugural meet of the Halifax International Security Forum, the warmongering agency based in Washington, DC and funded by Canada’s Department of National Defence and Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. The activists covered the statue of Edward Cornwallis with a white sheet and took the collective decision to rename the park as Halifax Peace and Freedom Park, as their very first act. This act was carried out in consultation with Mi’kmaq elders, such as acclaimed historian Dan Paul who, on behalf of the Mi’kmaq nation, supported this renaming.

The anti-war rally in 2009 was organized by an ad hoc committee consisting of activists from different affiliations and background, which became No Harbour for War. No Harbour for War has spearheaded this campaign ever since. In this issue, TML Weekly is reprinting the speech delivered by well-known and much-loved activist Betty Peterson at the anti-war rally held one year later, on November 6, 2010, on the occasion of the second annual Halifax International Security Forum.

Tony Seed addresses anti-war demonstration in Cornwallis Park, November 21, 2009, against the first Halifax International Security Forum. Sign at base of statue renames the park “Halifax Peace and Freedom Park.”

The activities of the anti-war activists in Nova Scotia are very timely. This year, the Government of Canada is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Constitution called the British North America Act (1867) which enshrined the colonial arrangements and genocide carried out by the British during their conquest of the Indigenous nations and theft of their lands. This is the genocide Edward Cornwallis represents. The Trudeau Government is celebrating the anniversary of Confederation all kinds of rah-rah activities, while banning funding for any activities that discuss and oppose the essence of what the Constitution enshrines. This year, Prime Minister Trudeau finally removed the name of Langevin from the building across from the Parliament of Canada, which houses his office, on account of the fact that Langevin – a Father of Confederation – was the architect of the genocidal residential schools. But despite Trudeau’s rhetoric, measures which actually right historical wrongs in all spheres of life and living are lacking. This should include removing the names of kings and queens and lords, dukes, earls and other colonial administrators who committed crimes on the soil of this country against its original inhabitants. To this day these parasites who represent the “Crown,” where sovereignty is vested by the Constitution which is being celebrated, continue to engage in so-called official duties which cannot hide their colonial role — such as the boorish behaviour of the wife of the Prince of Wales, called Duchess of Cornwall, during a performance by Indigenous throat singers in the Northwest Territories.

It is high time Canada got rid of all anachronistic arrangements, including place names and statues that praise those who committed acts of genocide such as Cornwallis, Amherst and many others, as well as the constitution itself which enshrines these arrangements and deprives all Canadians of the rights which belong to them by virtue of being human.

TML Weekly, July 16, 2017, No. 25


Declaration for a Call to Action

Mikmaq Territory, July 15th, 2017

The following text is the Declaration for a Call to Action that was presented to the Mayor of Halifax with a bundle of tobacco.

For the past 150 years Canada has failed to engage in a true Nation-to-Nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples. This same colonial legacy exists here in Mikmaq territory as well. Too many examples of colonial genocide are being celebrated here, in our own territory. As we look to the next 150 years we seek to reconcile our past history and chart a new vision where our rights, history and future are realized.

It is in this era of reconciliation, and in the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, that we issue the following Calls to Action:

1) The immediate removal of the Edward Cornwallis statue as it represents a symbol of genocide and continues to prevent reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples;
2) Host a Peace Assembly to facilitate reconciliation and peace amongst all peoples; and
3) To create an Indigenous-Halifax Expert Panel comprised of representatives from the Halifax Regional Municipality and Indigenous Peoples. The panel will;
a) Examine the naming of all public parks and other places under the control of the Halifax Regional Municipality, to ensure they are respectful of the history of Indigenous Peoples;
b) Ensure that first Nation history and Treaties are reflected in public spaces; and
c) Work together to identify other acts of reconciliation for implementation.

The commitment of the Halifax Regional Municipality to provide on the progress on these Calls to Action in time for Mikmaq History Month.





  • 2010 Speech by Betty Peterson

Hello there friends.

Today I have been asked to address you. I feel very privileged to do so.

Today we are gathered together in this anti-war rally 261 years after the scalping proclamation issued by Edward Cornwallis, the so-called “founder” of Halifax and governor of Nova Scotia. In 1749, Cornwallis put a bounty on the scalp of every Mi’kmaq man, woman and child in the province — a move tantamount to genocide. That Acadians too were scalped is a matter of historical fact. It is vital that we condemn all crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity and that we learn the lessons of history in order that we can prevent similar crimes in the future.

This barbaric proclamation, an instrument of British colonial white supremacy and injustice, has never been formally withdrawn nor apologized for. This barbaric proclamation was one of the instruments for the dispossession and extermination of the Indigenous and peace-loving Mi’kmaq Nation — and the war of terror against and forcible deportation of the peace-loving Acadian people — a war of conquest of Nova Scotia and the Canadian colonies, and the establishment of Halifax as a harbour for war — No Harbour For War! … and a base for aggression in the Americas.

In 1933 the city fathers commissioned a statue of Cornwallis and named this park to honour this war criminal. The Westin Hotel across the street, host of the Halifax War Conference (Halifax International Security Forum), also boasts a Cornwallis Room. [Shame!]

We call on everyone to endorse the mass petition initiated by the Mi’kmaq and their allies to deCornwallize (decolonize) Nova Scotia [Cheers], to remove the name of this genocidal officer from the names of all public buildings, sites and towns in Nova Scotia. [Cheers] Denounce the stubborn, unjustifiable resistance of the governments to this just and principled demand! This petition may be found on the Internet in the English, French and Mi’kmaq languages.

We reaffirm the collective decision of last year’s anti-war rally to rename this park the Halifax Peace and Freedom Park! [Cheers]

The policy of extermination of the Indigenous peoples has not changed in the modern era. Throughout the Americas and the world, the Indigenous peoples are rising up in defence of their rights to self-determination, their right-to-be.

The Indigenous nations of Canada have been second to none in the opposition of the Canadian people to the U.S.-led NATO bloc and their war preparations.

Innu women demonstrate in the mid-1980s against NATO overflights and for self-determination for their homeland.

Let us salute the heroic resistance of the Innu people of Nitassinan against the U.S. and NATO, which turned Labrador into its private flight training centre.

How many remember the Innu of Labrador? How many? Not many. Well I’m telling you something about them. In 1949 Canada was the first country to ratify the North Atlantic Treaty. Lester B. Pearson said that NATO was the ideal pretext to justify the establishment of U.S. military bases in Canada, 23 of which had already been built in Newfoundland and Labrador during World War II.

The struggle against NATO was waged right here. The Innu nation fought every inch of the way against the appropriation of their traditional lands for U.S. and NATO bases and the damage to their way of life by the low-level training flights of U.S., British and German Luftwaffe jet fighters. Instead of defending their rights, the Government of Canada forcibly relocated, then arrested and criminalized hundreds of Innu [Shame!], who staged massive sit-ins at the military bases. Today Canada is feverishly participating in the militarization of the Arctic.

And I was there standing with them.

And how about the Lubicon in Alberta? I was there as well and was arrested with others and put in jail. And now the Alberta government has given permission for the tar sands in Alberta to take over Lubicon land. They are calling this Tar Sands Number 2.

The disastrous consequences of the attitude of the Canadian colonial settler state to the Indigenous nations of our country can be seen today in the imperialist attitude and wars of occupation towards the Indigenous people of all lands, the people of Afghanistan, the people in Iraq, the people in Palestine, Haiti and other lands. Throughout the Americas and the world, the Indigenous people are rising up in defence of their rights to self-determination, their right-to-be.

This anti-war rally of the people of our city defends the rights of all peoples to self-determination. The rights we demand for the people of Afghanistan must be accorded the Indigenous peoples of Canada!

We ask everyone for a minute’s silence to remember the millions who have died as a result of genocide and crimes against humanity.

[Minute of silence and cheers]

A Bibliographical Note
– Tony Seed –

Betty Peterson was born in the United States in 1917. As social activists, pacifists and Quakers, she and her late husband, Gunnar Peterson, were conscientious objectors during World War II. They also participated in the civil rights movement in Chicago for 23 years and in Vietnam War protests before leaving the United States to settle in Halifax in 1975.

In Nova Scotia, Betty continued her advocacy for the peace movement, especially with the Voice of Women for Peace and Halifax Society of Friends (Quakers). She took this up with a passion. She supported causes concerning the humanizing of the natural and social environment; women’s rights; education; nuclear disarmament; solidarity with Cuba, Nicaragua and Palestine; and the rights of the Indigenous peoples.

She participated in several out-of-province crusades, which were supported in part by Canadian Society of Friends and chronicled in national media reports, including a 1988 trek to Little Buffalo, Alberta, to support the Lubicon Cree Nation’s land-claim fight and a 1987 trip to Goose Bay, Labrador to stand with the Innu protesting NATO low-lying military planes at the Canadian Forces Base.

Among her many activities in Halifax were participating in ecumenical movements for social justice (with Kairos), protesting the 1991 Gulf War, promoting an alternative People’s Summit (P7) during the 1995 G-7 meeting held in Halifax, NS, and joining a 1996 sit-in at a Canada Employment Centre on Gottingen Street being closed. In the early 2000s she participated in public vigils protesting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and has been a member of the Raging Grannies, a greying band of activists who use street theatre to promote peace and women’s rights. In most of these organizations Betty Peterson had a major role such as organizing, planning, and keeping detailed records of activities, names, strategies and results.

From the first time I met Betty in the 1980s I was struck by the fact that her political stands were characterized by opposition to U.S. imperialism as the main source of war and main threat to peace in the world and her warm support for national liberation struggles. This was in stark contrast to the state-promoted line that blames the people for “violence” and racism or attributes the struggle against occupation as “a cycle of violence” in which the victimizer and the victim are placed on the same plane. We sincerely appreciated her opposition to and disgust with sectarianism and the factional spirit which is used to split and divide the polity on the basis of ideology, and the use of NGOs by the Department of National Defence as gatekeepers to infiltrate the anti-war movement.

In the fall of 1997 over 200 of her friends gathered at the North Church to celebrate her 80th birthday and pay tribute to her lifelong and tireless work. The festive function was a living refutation of the line that the anti-war activist is so-called “isolated” in Halifax and reflected how many lives she had touched. As feisty as ever, she applauded the work of all those participating in the struggles to defend the rights of all and in particular hailed the clarion call of “No Harbour for War!” In fact, she had called me earlier to bring all our banners, which she wished to hoist proudly on the walls of the hall as her own.

Betty was a longtime reader and active supporter of Shunpiking Magazine and its 13-years selfless work to develop independent and progressive media that puts the concerns, life, culture and history of the people at the centre of its canvas. She would oft-times drop into our office at 6211 North Street to discuss the latest issues and applaud all those involved in voluntarily distributing the magazine into the small towns and villages of the Canso Straits area where she maintained a small summer cottage to rest.

She personally endorsed my own candidacy for the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada party in several elections and our stand for an anti-war MP for Halifax and an anti-war government for Canada which defends the rights of all as the pro-war stand of the major political parties had became more and more evident.

Her friend Carolyn van Gurp notes on Facebook that “Betty, soon to turn 100 years old, had wanted to be at the July 1 Oppose 150 early morning event near the bridge. Though physically she would not have had the strength.”

Note

For related reading, see History of Halifax, a Mi’kmaw Perspective.

(With files from No Harbour for War, Nova Scotia Archives)

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1 Comment

Filed under First Nations, History, Canada

One response to “Canada 150: Activities in Halifax call for rededication of Cornwallis Genocide Park

  1. LM

    Tony you had been at the forefront of the Cornwallis debate for decades both before and during and after Shunpiking Magazine, and when it was ignored almost entirely and even for awhile a taboo topic.
    Another good name could be People’s Front Park. Peace and Freedom: those words so often used to justify imperialist wars and to erase struggles of those whose ‘peace’ and ‘freedom’ is being destroyed.
    A problem with treaties is that most were “signed” without full consent or full knowledge of the Mikmaki, usually only a handful were present at the signing (most people were away during the “signing”; migrating seeking food and shelter where they could on tidbits of land not taken by settlers and in dire health and they were not even privy to these agreements), most of which guaranteed their assimilation and disenfranchisement from land and recognition of settler rights. The state agents did this purposefully along with erasing many “Indians” through their racist demographics sending agents in to “count” the few they found and designated locations and ignoring so many others who were either migrating for seasonally available resources. But even though they were not counted or consulted in the political documents that defined them forever, they were Mikimaki as much as those who were counted. The “counts” matter because it is another way the state justified unfair treaties on the argument that there were so few left–which was untrue. Thousands and thousands of people are still affected by this legacy.
    There are many places and people that did not fall under treaties at all and it is important to remember and recognize them also, such as the ‘reserves’ once recognized by Joseph Howe and their subsequent erasure by the state and removal of people to larger reserves and selling of the ‘protected’ land. Cornwallis named many other streets after his buddies who were pillaging and stealing in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and so on and today they name streets and places after business people, ‘developers’ and other who help capital to circulate.
    The current popularity of renaming, removing, coming face to face with genocidal acts upon which the nation is rooted and was further developed through its exploitation of non-European immigrants and participation in imperialist wars, is an opportunity to forward a political definition of the Canadian polity instead of a Victorian era racist one, and to consider a nation that recognize the rights of all to food, shelter and the means to these first and foremost and then fortifying public access to education, healthcare as a start.

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