The Renaming of Institutions

By: The Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard

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Kings Cove, Newfoundland

Hon. Wanda Elaine Thomas Bernard: Honourable senators, I rise today to share some news of exciting changes in Halifax. After years of community advocacy to remove problematic namesakes in Halifax, I introduce to you the New Horizons Baptist Church and the Peace and Friendship Park.

Formerly known as Cornwallis Street Baptist Church, New Horizons Baptist Church is referred to as the mother church in the African-Nova Scotian community. This church recognized how harmful their namesake was to Mi’kmaq people. As pastor Dr. Rhonda Britton said:

We don’t want to contribute to people’s oppression. We want a new name for the church that reflects who we are and what we stand for.

They hope that the Halifax Regional Municipality follows their lead to change the name of Cornwallis Street also.

For more than 30 years, Mi’kmaq elder Dan Paul has been lobbying for the removal of the Cornwallis statue and name in Halifax in recognition of the harm caused by celebrating people who used their positions of power in racist, dishonourable ways. The Halifax Regional Council recently removed the statue of Cornwallis and initiated a process to rename the park to Peace and Friendship Park.

Removing statues of people like Egerton Ryerson and Edward Cornwallis is not about rewriting history. It is about deciding not to idolize those who have a legacy of violence. I do not condone violence of any form. I support the safe removal of the statues and namesakes of historical figures who enacted violence such as genocide, slavery and residential schools. Their legacy continues to harm Indigenous and Black communities. This is part of a collective reckoning of the harmful and shameful parts of Canada’s history.

Borrowing from Sam Cooke’s civil rights protest song, “It’s been a long . . . time coming, but I know a change gonna come . . . .”

Colleagues, change is good. I congratulate the courageous change leaders in Halifax and eagerly await more changes. Asante. Thank you.

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