Friday, August 28, 2009

kicking cornwall-ass

one doesn't often publicly call the founder of one's city a child murderer, so i spent a bit of time working on a column i wrote for metro today. (i'll paste it below)

a few weeks ago, i wrote a newser on dan paul's thought that we should take down the god-awful cornwallis statue downtown and replace it with one for marshall. for the column, i opted to be as offensive as possible to old edward. i thought about calling him a baby killer, but somehow that didn't seem as terrible as 'child murderer'. i also liked 'kid-killer cornwallis'. i'm hoping it catches on.

i was so excited to write the column that i was up till midnight working on it when it came my way. when i sent it to metro, toronto sent it back - apparently they wanted a little backing for my proclamation. so i got to do a little primary research which, let's be honest, us hacks don't do a lot of. i called up the public archives of nova scotia and told them what i wanted: within an hour, the staff member called me back holding cornwallis's original, hand-written 1749 'scalping' proclamation. soon after, he emailed me a copy.

seeing the actual document is quite an experience - all that messy handwriting, the odd added word floating above the sentences, and the critical passage there in black and yellow:

"That his excellency give orders to his commanding officers at Annapolis Royal, Minas and all others within the province to annoy, distress and destroy the Indian everywhere. That a premium be promised of 10 guineas for every Indian killed or taken prisoner."

record keeping is shoddy as to how many scalps were actually brought in, but there were at least dozens, if not hundreds, if not thousands. little distinction was made between adult and child scalps in the attempt to "root out" the mi'kmaq from nova scotia - people like gorham's rangers would just bring in handfuls of scalps and collect their money. there are accounts of pregnant women, old men and children being killed in the ensuing chaos. there are even accounts of fewer rangers returning from a scalping mission then left on it, and a surplus of scalps: the guys were killing each other for a bit of cash.

as a nova scotian, i find it embarrassing that we still have a statue to this bozo. when i talked to dan paul about it, he said a politician had once expressed sympathy, but shrugged it off because 'other' people weren't that bothered. i decode 'other' as white, and suggest we get bothered.

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i went to see the child soliders talk at dalhousie last night. ishmael beah and kon kelei spoke about their lives in war-torn sierra leon and sudan, and how they turned that darkness into light. i interviewed kon a few weeks ago - he's a quiet, passionate man and had a lot of hard-won insight into the human condition.

one of the men last night - i think it was beah - said dealing with child soldiers now - getting them out of the war - is a cost-effective measure, as otherwise they will grow up unreconstructed to become leaders we can't deal with.

i thought of omar khadr, the much-vilified canadian child soldier still sitting in guantanamo bay. he was 15 when he allegedly killed a us soldier in the afghan war. that means he was a child soldier. canada is working as hard as it can to not transfer khadr back to canada and to ensure he remains in prison.

i wonder if we canadians are heart-broken for african child soldiers caught up in conflicts we don't care about, but colder when it comes to muslim child soldiers in a war we're fighting.

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"Ditch the Cornwallis statue for one honouring Donald Marshall"

JON TATTRIE
METRO HALIFAX
August 28, 2009 12:51 a.m.
Edward Cornwallis paid people to murder children. Seriously.

If you killed a Mi’kmaq child, cut off his or her scalp and brought it to Cornwallis, he’d hand you cash. Women were also worth a few bucks — and men, too. What did he do with all the scalps people brought him? I have no idea.

Maybe you’re struggling to put a face to the name. No problem. Stop by the train/bus station in downtown Halifax, or glance up as you pedal to the south-end Superstore. There’s a lovely statue of Cornwallis in a pretty park named for him. It even has a helpful plaque, telling you Cornwallis founded Halifax in 1749. No mention of this kid-killing thing. Fair enough — it would be a bit embarrassing if all those wandering cruise-ship tourists noticed we had a big statue for the governor who issued the notorious “scalping proclamation” in 1749.

Mi’kmaq historian and Spryfield resident Daniel Paul has an interesting idea. He says we should take down Cornwallis’ statue and replace it with one of Donald Marshall Jr.

Before his untimely death at 55 a few weeks ago, Marshall won two landmark legal cases -- one that shone a light on the systemic racism in Nova Scotian courts and the other a famous victory upholding Mi’kmaq treaty rights.

The first cost him 11 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit.

Paul, the author of We Were Not the Savages, thinks it would be a fitting tribute and would show Nova Scotia was moving beyond systemic racism. He told me people say the whole scalping thing was such a long time ago, why the big fuss? If it’s such a small deal, he wondered, why not take the statue down?

The usual defence for Cornwallis is it was war. There was the Dartmouth incident: Allegedly, a group of Mi’kmaq men murdered a group of unarmed white men, prompting Cornwallis to start paying people to murder any Mi’kmaq person they could find. Let’s say this happened. Does that mean you can murder any Mi’kmaq person?

Remember those Canadian soldiers who tortured and killed Shidane Abukar Arone in Somalia in 1993? Want to put up a statue honouring them? How about if, after another IED attack killed a Canadian soldier, a Canadian general offered cash for the heads of all Pashtun men, women and children.

Statue? No?

So let’s get rid of Edward’s statue.

I’d much rather stand with Marshall.
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