Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Cornwallis Debate

About two hundred and fifty years ago a British military man arrived in what is now Nova Scotia.  His job was to set up a British colony there as a counter to the French fortress of Louisbourg, and make sure it would be safe for colonists arriving from the U.K., mostly Scotland.

He founded the city of Halifax.  The new colony of Nova Scotia (New Scotland) thrived under his leadership. 

That man was Edward Cornwallis.  He's commemorated around that modern city of Halifax with parks, streets, buildings, and squares named for him - not to mention, a large statue.

But there was another side to Edward Cornwallis.  He came to Canada fresh from a campaign to bring Scotland more in line with the rest of the U.K.  His solution there was to exterminate his opponents!  Many Scots were killed in that campaign.  I think Ed figured that it worked so well in Scotland he would do the same thing in Nova Scotia. 

He proclaimed a bounty on the lives of the native Mi'kmaq people, including women and children!  It is unclear just how many native people were slaughtered as part of this program.  I think there might have been a large number!  

When you read history you'll find out that the British did much of this "pacification" everywhere they went.  The rule appears to have been; "If you can't make good British citizens out of the natives, then remove them or possibly enslave them".  It happened in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Rhodesia, India, Canada and what was to become the United States, plus many other places! 

This "pacification" program carried on for centuries.  Those countries and their native populations affected are still suffering the affects of this brutal, inhumane program. 

Many people in Halifax want Edward Cornwallis struck from history.  I think that would be a mistake.  Renaming many of his namesakes would be a good thing, but Nova Scotians (and all Canadians) must never be allowed to forget what Cornwallis did!  The actions of Cornwallis and his fellow British militarists are one reason why we are here now with the issues and problems we face today!

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