PORT WILLIAMS, NS – The teacher and students of a grade 6 to 8 class in Port Williams have responded to the recent removal of Halifax’s notorious Cornwallis statue after speaking out several weeks ago with a unique solution.
The statue was temporarily removed from its pedestal Jan. 31 after repeated protests from various groups, including members of the Aboriginal community, who want it gone.
But the class of students at the Booker School, which regularly looks at reconciliation issues and encourages activism among its students, argues the statue should be left standing, among three other statues also representing African Nova Scotian, Acadian and Mi’kmaq histories, with plaques noting both positive and negative points in history.
“We understand why different groups want the statue taken down, and we agree it should no longer sit on the pedestal, but we’re offering another solution,” says Temma Frecker, the students’ teacher.
The students’ idea, which they reached collectively after several rounds of discussion and debate, proposes the Cornwallis statue be lowered to ground level and joined by Viola Desmond, Grand Chief John Denny Jr., and Noël Doiron, who were each identified by the students as leaders in African Nova Scotian, Mi’kmaq and Acadian history, respectively, within the province’s wider past.
The idea has been referenced in short snippets by Halifax’s regional council members twice on the radio, as heard by the students’ parents, and several times in the media, making Frecker wonder if its true intention came across to listeners and readers.
“There’s a difference between a ‘founders’ park’ and a meaningful art installation with the point being to encourage discussion, critical thinking and the repercussions of history,” says Frecker.
The students are due to meet with Waye Mason, a councillor, on Feb. 7 to discuss their proposal, and have extended invitations to other decision-makers throughout the Halifax and Kings County areas.
Frecker says her students are feeling quite proud that their idea has been gaining such traction and notice.
“The students are feeling great. It’s crazy how much has happened over the last week, and as we were reflecting on the school year, several students mentioned feeling empowered by what this proposal has achieved so far,” she says.
“There are still some nerves that come with a meeting like this, but time will tell what happens from here.”