The results are in: Nora Bernard Street is the recommended new name for Cornwallis Street.

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.

Lawyer John McKiggan summed up Bernard’s legal battle in a tribute following her death:

I first met Nora in 1995. She came to me and asked for help her with a claim on behalf of all of the former students of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School. What Nora wanted to do had never been done before.

She felt that Indian Residential School System was wrong and that every child that had ever been forced to attend the Shubenacadie Residential School was entitled to be compensated for their experience. She wanted justice for the Survivors of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School. She wanted to file a claim against the Government of Canada and the Roman Catholic Church and she asked me to help her. After hearing Nora’s story and the stories of many of the other Shubenacadie survivors I agreed to help Nora with her goal.

Nora filed the first Class Action law suit against the government of Canada seeking compensation for Residential School Survivors. After Nora filed her claim other survivors from other schools in other provinces filed similar law suits. Eventually these claims joined together and the end result was the National Class Action Settlement, the largest class action settlement in Canadian history which will pay compensation to up to 70,000 former Residential School residents.

It took Nora twelve years to achieve her goal. It was not an easy fight and her role representing survivors often took a toll on her health. Sometimes it looked like the fight for survivors couldn’t be won. But Nora never gave up hope and never stopped working for the Shubenacadie Survivors.

Nora was an incredible woman. She was a kind and gentle person. She had a giving heart and a great deal inner strength.

The new name requires a council vote on Tuesday before becoming official. Council could instead choose one of the three runners up: Nitap Street, Dr Alfred Waddell Street, or Rocky Jones Street.

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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