Parks Canada to consult Mi'kmaq of P.E.I. about revising national historic site name

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Petition presented to Ottawa against Amherst name on historic site

Parks Canada says it will accept a recommendation by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and consult the Mi'kmaq of P.E.I. to determine if Port-la-Joye – Fort Amherst National Historic Site of Canada can be revised to include an historic Mi'kmaq name for its location at Rocky Point.

It has also accepted a recommendation not to drop the word Amherst from the site's name — despite the request of a Mi'kmaq grand chief from P.E.I. to remove it.

An excerpt from the September meeting of the HSMBC notes that the board "could not recommend that the historic place name of Fort Amherst be removed from the official name of the national historic site, noting that the designation is based, in part, on the fact that the location served as a seat of government for the British from 1758 to 1768."

"Additionally, the historic place name of Fort Amherst is intimately associated with the expulsion of the Acadians in 1758," it continues.

'Reconciliation means more than saying I'm sorry'

The request to remove the name was made by Keptin John Joe Sark, who asked Parks Canada to drop the reference to General Jeffery Amherst — saying Amherst was a tyrant and an enemy of the Indigenous people.

Historians have found evidence in correspondence with others in the British military in the 1700s that Amherst advocated spreading the smallpox virus to aboriginal people using blankets. However, there is no direct evidence Amherst handed out smallpox-infected blankets himself.

Sark is unhappy about the decision regarding the name Amherst.

"Reconciliation means more than saying I'm sorry. There also has to be a commitment to make amends for the harm done to our people. Removing General Jeffery Amherst's name from the national Rocky Point would be an excellent start."

Name could be revised to include Indigenous name

But Sark is pleased about the potential inclusion of a historic Mi'kmaq name in the name of the site. 

Sark has sent names for consideration.

In a statement, Parks Canada said it will report back to the HSMBC after consultations and "if a suitable name is identified, the [board] will consider whether the official name of the site should be changed to include the Mi'kmaw place name." 

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