Mi'kmaq rename Cornwallis coast guard ship for 1752 peace treaty

·3 min read
The former Canadian Coast Guard Ship Edward Cornwallis. The vessel has been renamed the CCGS Kopit Hopson 1752.  (Submitted/Canadian Coast Guard - image credit)
The former Canadian Coast Guard Ship Edward Cornwallis. The vessel has been renamed the CCGS Kopit Hopson 1752. (Submitted/Canadian Coast Guard - image credit)

The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Edward Cornwallis has been renamed in honour of a historic Peace and Friendship Treaty.

Cornwallis, a governor of Nova Scotia who was a British military officer, founded Halifax in 1749. He issued a so-called "scalping proclamation" the same year, offering a bounty to anyone who killed Mi'kmaw men, women and children.

Mi'kmaw elder and author Daniel Paul got a call on Sunday from the office for Bernadette Jordan, the minister for Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the coast guard.

They let him know the ship has officially been renamed after his suggestion: the CCGS Kopit Hopson 1752.

"It's an important move. And part of society moving away from what I consider a white supremacist decision and into a more inclusive society," Paul said Monday.

"It was one of the best Easter presents I ever got."

Paul originally wrote to Jordan a year ago, when the department announced the icebreaker would be refurbished. He also reached out to Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw Chiefs to encourage them to push for the change.

Last summer, DFO announced the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw Chiefs would be renaming the vessel. They in turn asked Paul for some suggestions, he said.

Daniel Paul's book, We Were Not the Savage, helped open the debate about the Edward Cornwallis statue. He suggested the federal government rename the Coast Guard vessel CCGS Kopit Hopson 1752, in reference to an important Peace and Friendship Treaty.
Daniel Paul's book, We Were Not the Savage, helped open the debate about the Edward Cornwallis statue. He suggested the federal government rename the Coast Guard vessel CCGS Kopit Hopson 1752, in reference to an important Peace and Friendship Treaty. (Steve Berry/CBC)

The Treaty of 1752 was signed on Nov. 22, 1752, between British governor Peregrine Thomas Hopson (Cornwallis's successor) and Mi'kmaw Chief Kopit.

Paul said naming the ship after Hopson and Kopit is simply the "appropriate" thing to do, and shows what can be accomplished when two people on opposing sides sit down and decide to do something positive.

"We're still here and we've got to learn to live together and prosper together and get rid of the thing called systemic racism," he said.

Paul is known in the province for his advocacy for First Nations rights and recognition of Canada's history of oppression of Indigenous peoples, and pushed for the removal of the Edward Cornwallis statue in Halifax.

Cornwallis's name has previously been removed from buildings in Halifax, and a street in Sydney, N.S.

In a statement Monday, Minister Jordan confirmed that the CCGS Kopit Hopson 1752 will be relaunched into service later this year.

She said the 1752 Peace and Friendship Treaties set out long-standing commitments between the Crown and the Mi'kmaw, Maliseet and Peskotomuhkati people.

"They envisioned a partnership built on mutual respect and service to one another. The core values of the Canadian Coast Guard are honour, respect, and devotion to duty, and this vessel now has a name that reflects those principles," Jordan said.

"Reconciliation is a journey, and we will continue to work together to honour the promises made in the treaties."

The government has spent $12.1 million to refurbish the light icebreaker at the Irving-owned Shelburne Ship Repair.

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