Cornwallis is out, and Nora Bernard Street is official.
Halifax regional council voted unanimously on Tuesday to rename the street. Once named for the city’s so-called founder, who issued a bounty on the scalps of Mi’kmaw men, women, and children, it will now bear the name of a Mi’kmaw activist who fought for justice for residential school survivors across the country.
As the Halifax Examiner reported on Friday, the municipality launched a process to rename the street based on a recommendation from the Task Force on the Commemoration of Edward Cornwallis and the Recognition and Commemoration of Indigenous History:
It gathered potential names from the public last fall, and created a short list. That list went to an online survey open from July to September 2022, with residents asked to pick their top three names.
According to a report to Halifax regional council’s upcoming Tuesday meeting, Bernard’s name received 11.8% of the 20,475 votes cast. There were 14 other options, including runners up Nitap Street, Dr Alfred Waddell Street, Rocky Jones Street, and Freedom Way.
Bernard, a Mi’kmaw woman born in Millbrook First Nation, was a residential school survivor who became a prominent activist. She fought for compensation for all former residents of those schools, and filed a successful class action lawsuit against the federal government. She was killed by her grandson in 2007, and posthumously awarded the Order of Nova Scotia in 2008.
New signage will go up in the coming months at a total cost of $405, and all residents and businesses on the street will receive 12 months of Canada Post mail redirection services for free.
In a news release Tuesday afternoon, HRM said the new name comes into effect in October 2023.
“Once named for the city’s so-called founder, who issued a bounty on the scalps of Mi’kmaw men, women, and children…”
Was there a Halifax here before Cornwallis?
There seems little doubt Cornwallis issued a bounty for it, but to my knowledge, this was not previously standard British military practice. Why did Cornwallis enable it here?
I use the term “so-called founder” based on my understanding of the history, much of which I owe to Jon Tattrie’s book, Cornwallis: The Violent Birth of Halifax. Cornwallis was sent to Nova Scotia to establish a city in this location. He didn’t really find anything.
Sure he did Zane.
He found the land to establish what is now called The City of Halifax. Merriam-Webster defines a founder as a person who founds or establishes some institution. Arguably Halifax is an institution and Cornwallis – warts and all – it its founder. If he didn’t, who did?
Whether that land was his (or The Crown’s) and that he did so using extreme violence while refusing to respect the agreements he made with the Mi’kmak are separate matters IMHO.