Cornwallis statue to go

Halifax council has voted to immediately remove a statue of Edward Cornwallis from a downtown park, with several councillors calling it a barrier to reconciliation.

Council voted 12-4 to temporarily place the bronze figure of the city's controversial founder in storage until a decision is made on its long-term fate.

"If we want reconciliation, we pull down the statue immediately," said Coun. Richard Zurawski. "Let's end the 500 years of broken promises and take away this visual symbol of supremacy."

Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq chiefs had called Friday for the statue to be taken down immediately, because a panel appointed in October to study how the city commemorates Cornwallis had not even met yet.

Mayor Mike Savage told council that the issue of truth and reconciliation has been a long time coming.

Speaking from prepared notes, he said "we are all a product of our history," but we do not have to be a prisoner to it.

The mayor told council that removing the statue is not about re-writing history, but acknowledging that history is also not "cast in bronze."

Cornwallis is a disputed character seen by some as a brave leader who founded Halifax, but by others as the commander of a bloody and barbaric extermination campaign against Mi'kmaq inhabitants.

"The status quo is completely untenable. The statue is a barrier to reconciliation," Coun. Sam Austin said during the debate. "Cornwallis will always be in the history books. This is about how we commemorate him."

A staff report suggested the Cornwallis statue could be taken down and stored at a cost of about $25,000.

It said it is concerned about rising tensions around the statue, citing a planned protest Sunday that could result in "damage to the statue, conflicts among protesters and counter-protesters and personal injury."

"The statue has increasingly become a flashpoint for protests," states the document, dated Jan. 27.

"Clashes arising from protests and counter-protests of controversial statues in other jurisdictions have in some cases resulted in injury and damage to public property and in a worst case, death. There is a reputational risk to Halifax from the attention associated with this unrest."

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