Several hundred people showed up at Cornwallis Park for a ceremony to “remove” the statue honouring Edward Cornwallis.
Speaker Elizabeth Marshall opened the proceedings by telling the crowd that there have been differing opinions in the Indigenous community about what to do with the statue. Some wanted it removed immediately, while others wanted to go through the process agreed to by Halifax City Council — which voted to establish a panel of experts to study and discuss the issue with the public. That issue will come back to council in September.
In the meanwhile, a “Removing Cornwallis” Facebook page was created to force the issue. The group pledged to remove the statue today.
In the end, a compromise position was reached with the help of Mayor Mike Savage, who attended today’s event as an observer, not a participant. Using a city cherry picker, a city worker would drape the statue and the drape will remain in place for a week.
Undoubtedly the compromise will not please all, but there’s an elegance to it: it makes a political point, is expressive of a deep desire among many Indigenous people to have the statue removed, and is a visible symbol to everyone else in the city of that desire. I think, or at least hope, that it will move the conversation along.
Before the statue was draped, Isabel Knockwood led a ceremony. Sometimes such ceremonies are considered private affairs, but given the public nature and educational purpose of the event, the assembled reporters and others were encouraged to photograph it.
Knockwood led prayers while facing to each of the four compass points. When she finished, the statue was draped and the crowd erupted in cheers.
There were a very small number of pro-Cornwallis counter-demonstrators at the park, but they kept their distance. One called himself Cornwallis Junior. Another wore a “Trump for President” T-shirt.
Police were present, but also kept a respectful distance.
All in all, I’d say the event went about as well as it could have. As of this writing (1pm), hundreds of people are still in the park, celebrating.