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Bridgewater to rename Cornwallis Street

·3 min read
A Bridgewater, N.S., sign is seen on July 30, 2016. The town voted 4-2 Monday to rename Cornwallis Street. (The Canadian Press - image credit)
A Bridgewater, N.S., sign is seen on July 30, 2016. The town voted 4-2 Monday to rename Cornwallis Street. (The Canadian Press - image credit)

The Town of Bridgewater, N.S., is being added to the list of communities that are severing ties with Edward Cornwallis.

On Monday, town council voted 4-2 in favour of a motion to rename Cornwallis Street. Its namesake was the former governor of Nova Scotia who issued a bounty on Mi'kmaw scalps.

Mayor David Mitchell says he would have liked to see council take action sooner.

"The acts of Edward Cornwallis paints a picture of a very terrible man who did very terrible things, and I don't for a second think we should be putting those people on pedestals and naming streets after them or parks, or statues," he said.

"The right thing to do, especially knowing the pain this causes people, is to remove the name."

Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw elder and historian Daniel Paul has spent more than 30 years appealing for Cornwallis to be removed from public places.

Robert Short/CBC
Robert Short/CBC

Paul said there is no excuse to keep his memory alive.

"As governor of Nova Scotia, he issued a proclamation for the scalps of Mi'kmaw men, women and children. Why should we be idolizing a historical individual like that?" he said.

"There's no reason for it. Unless you think it's fine to idolize someone that did their best to exterminate a race of people."

A statue of Cornwallis was taken down in Halifax because of public pressure in 2018, and in 2020, Cornwallis Street in Sydney became Legacy Street.

Bridgewater councillors Cheryl Fougere and Wayne Thorburn cast the two votes opposed to changing the street's name.

Speaking to council, Thorburn said he doesn't take issue with renaming the street, but more so how the community was consulted.

Google Maps
Google Maps

"I'm not opposed to renaming the street, I want to make that very clear, but the persons on the street would like to talk in person and not have a letter dropped in their mailbox," said Thorburn.

"If there was the debate for it in person and if the motion came back, I would certainly support it."

Steve Berry/CBC
Steve Berry/CBC

There are 14 addresses on Cornwallis Street. The city heard back from nine residents, all of whom didn't want to see the street renamed.

"From their perspective, I understand there is an inconvenience to changing the name if you grew up on the street," Mitchell said.

"But at the end of the day, we should not be revering people who did terrible things."

Council assigned the town's heritage advisory committee to look into the matter last July, in consultation with the Bridgewater Anti-Racism Task Force.

Stephanie Blanchet/CBC
Stephanie Blanchet/CBC

The move came after a citizen inquiry and a petition that collected nearly 800 signatures.

Mitchell expects it will take a few months before the street has a new name.

"It's a small action, but it is more than just saying, 'Sorry it is a bad name,'" he said. "It's saying, 'I hear you, and understand that, and we are going to do something about it.'"

Council also passed a motion that will change the way streets are named going forward.

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