Statement on Cornwallis Park and Cornwallis Statue

Kwe’ my friends. I am Councillor Waye Mason.

I wish to begin by acknowledging that Halifax Regional Municipality is on Eskikewa’kik territory in Mi’kma’ki. The municipality and all the people here are beneficiaries of the peace and friendship treaties with the Mi’kmaq. I extend to the Mi’kmaw people my respect and desire to build stronger relationships in the spirit and intent of these treaties.

The discussion leading up to today’s public open house about rejuvenating Cornwallis Park shows that park name and the statue of Edward Cornwallis continues to be an important issue that needs to be acknowledged, discussed and acted on.

The emailed comments, phone calls and the conversation on social media have been thoughtful and respectful. It says good things about Halifax that we can have a mature and considerate discussion about an important and potentially divisive issue while continuing to listen and be respectful of other’s opinions.

To put it in planning speak “What do we do as a society with commemorative landscapes that are unrepresentative of present values?” Possible responses could include renaming the park, keeping the statue with appropriate new context, adding new artwork to the park to tell a contemporary story of our view of history, or removing the statue and replacing it with something that does the same.

This is not simply a matter of renaming the park and removing the statue. We as a community may not be best served by erasing all mention of Cornwallis from the park.

As one person wrote on Facebook “Rather than removing [the statue], let’s invite proposals for a contemporary response and historical corrective to the established narrative. Removing it is a one-time act that does not continue to teach people. A permanent response would continue to generate awareness over time.”

All of these options need to be carefully considered and discussed.

As Councillor I commit to meeting with representatives of the Mi’kmaq community, the Acadian community, other concerned groups and concerned citizens to help determine possible courses of action that in turn will lead to a wide-ranging public discussion and ultimately action. These will not be easy discussions, but hard talk about tough issues cannot fail to make our community a stronger, better place.

Let’s talk about tonight. Our open house will include a brief opportunity for participants to identify what brought them here, and to allow these concerns to be recognized and recorded.

I am confident that people will be respectful of the other issues that are bringing us together tonight and will participate in the full discussion about all the plans and opportunities this public space represents.

wela’lioq (wel-all-ee-oh) and thank you all for coming out today to help make our community a better place.