New names for Halifax's Cornwallis Street range from commemorative to random

·4 min read
More than 2,000 street names were suggested in an online survey as part of the municipality's process to rename Cornwallis Street. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
More than 2,000 street names were suggested in an online survey as part of the municipality's process to rename Cornwallis Street. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

From Reconciliation Way to Streety McStreetface, the public's suggestions for names to replace Halifax's Cornwallis Street range from thoughtful to bewildering.

The Halifax Regional Municipality decided to rename Cornwallis Street after a recommendation in the April 2020 report from the Task Force on the Commemoration of Edward Cornwallis and the Recognition and Commemoration of Indigenous History.

Edward Cornwallis was the British governor of Nova Scotia who issued a proclamation in 1749 promising a bounty of ten guineas for each Mi'kmaw person who was killed.

An online survey run by the municipality this fall yielded more than 2,000 suggestions for names, which the CBC obtained through a freedom of information request.

By far, the most commonly submitted name was Cornwallis Street, with many other submissions such as "keep it the same" or "leave it alone and stop this nonsense" supporting that idea.

Other suggestions were clearly meant to protest the entire endeavour, such as Cancel Culture Street, Cornwalrus Street, Offended Avenue, Erasing The Past Street, Snowflake Drive and Politically Correct Street.

CBC
CBC

Mi'kmaw elder Daniel Paul, whose book We Were Not the Savages shed light on Cornwallis's actions, said he's not shocked that so many people suggested keeping the name Cornwallis Street.

"The white supremacist movement is quite pronounced here in Nova Scotia, so I'm not surprised."

Paul said he has never advocated for removing Cornwallis from the history books.

"I have advocated that the history books reflect the true history," he said. "I think history should be related as it transpired, not as somebody dreamed it."

Paul said he feels a name representing the history of the Black community in the area would be appropriate, and also would support Nelson Mandela Way.

Daniel Paul Way was suggested a few times in the survey — a notion that amused Paul.

"I'm not dead yet," he laughed. "I'd have my opposition up in arms for that one, for sure.… I'd almost be agreeable to see that reaction."

Aside from Cornwallis Street, the suggestions that received the most support in the survey were those recognizing heavyweight boxer Carroll Morgan, activist and businesswoman Viola Desmond and lawyer and activist Rocky Jones, as well as Reconciliation Way and Streety McStreetface — a nod to the most popular suggestion for a U.K. research vessel in a 2016 online poll, Boaty McBoatface.

Themes of reconciliation

The municipality encouraged suggestions that reflect the goal of reconciliation, and survey respondents delivered.

Suggestions were submitted to honour Mi'kmaw activist Nora Bernard, poet Rita Joe, Elder Freeman Douglas Knockwood, Grand Chief Gabriel Sylliboy and Donald Marshall Jr., who was wrongly convicted of murder and later went to the Supreme Court of Canada to defend treaty fishing rights.

K'jipuktuk Street, L'nu Road, Mi'kma'ki Way, Resiliency Road, Sipekne'katik Street and Treaty Street were among other suggestions, as well as street names including the Mi'kmaw words samqwan (water), ge'gupn (hilltop), gta'n (ocean) and wantaqo'ti (peace).

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press
Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

The names of several prominent African Nova Scotians were submitted, including journalist Carrie Best, explorer Mathieu Da Costa, boxer George Dixon, alderman Graham Downey, Victoria Cross recipient William Neilson Edward Hall, religious leader and abolitionist Richard Preston and Dr. Alfred Waddell, among others.

The recommendation from the task force was to rename the street New Horizons Street after the New Horizons Baptist Church, which was founded in 1832 and was previously known as the Cornwallis Street Baptist Church. The municipality's response was that it agreed with the recommendation but would engage with the community about the name change.

Current municipal policy does not allow for double-barrelled names unless they are approved commemorative names. Municipal staff would also need to ensure the name New Horizons Street does not pose a duplication issue with Horizon Court in Dartmouth.

Other suggestions descriptive, random

Some people put forth members of the LGBTQ+ community for commemoration, including Elliot Page, Raymond Taavel and Leighann Wichman.

Other suggestions included names honouring notable Nova Scotians, including Vince Coleman, Patti Melanson, Steve Murphy, Cpl. Heidi Stevenson and Dr. Robert Strang.

Some sought to recognize well-known Nova Scotian things such as the Bluenose, donairs or moon mist ice cream.

Robert Short/CBC
Robert Short/CBC

Others were descriptive of features of the street or the nearby geography, including Steep Street, Commons Road, Harbourview Street and It's The Wind That Gets Ya.

Many seemed to be random, such as Baby Bird Avenue, Befuddled Drive, Electric Avenue, Frodo Bag End, John Candy Street, Lovers Lane, Mac-n-Cheese, Sesame Street and Spongebob Street.

A few survey respondents took the opportunity to offer a general opinion about the process, with one suggesting any notable woman's name be selected, as "I am continually shocked by the lack of remembrance of women." Others argued that streets should not be named after people, since "just because someone seems OK by today's standards doesn't mean they will be OK in the future."

Next steps

Submissions will be reviewed by councillors and civic addressing and diversity and inclusion staff and will be considered based on appropriateness, cultural significance, diversity and originality.

A short list will be created and another survey will be posted to allow residents in the municipality to choose their preferred name from the list.

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