HALIFAX – This past Saturday over 100 Haligonians gathered in the park formerly known as Cornwallis Park, across the street from the Westin Hotel. The people in the crowd were a healthy mix of young and old, loud and quiet, politically radical and not-so-radical – everyone had come together to rally against the Halifax International Security Forum. The conference was hosted at the Westin over the weekend as part of NATO’s recent work to reconfigure itself as a security force.
Many Canadians who are opposed to Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan and in NATO are concerned that the conference was deceivingly portrayed in the media as a “Peace Conference” when, in fact, the topics on the agenda suggested it was a war conference. The Haligonians who gathered in Cornwallis Park were particularly opposed to the warm welcome extended by Peter MacKay and HRM to this controversial event.
But the rally kicked off with a lighthearted cry not against war crimes of the future, but those of the past. As people handed out banners and ate the food provided by Food Not Bombs, Edward Cornwallis’ imposing grey statue loomed over the crowd gathered in the centre of the park. Two young protesters climbed the statue and covered it with a white bed sheet anchored down by weighted hockey socks. This spirited action was part of an ongoing critique throughout Nova Scotia against Edward Cornwallis’ role in Canadian history, particularly due to his violent campaign in the 18th century against the Mi’kmaq people – denounced by many as genocide.
Everyone present at the rally cheered as the white sheet was thrown over Cornwallis’ defiantly proud, bird dropping-laden head. As the laughter faded out, it was declared that Cornwallis Park should henceforth be known as the Peace and Friendship Park.
Halifax, like all cities, is full of politically charged spaces, and Cornwallis Park is no exception. The way that residents made use of the park this weekend is just one example of how people work in spontaneous and fun ways to give such spaces meaning that they can actually relate to.
photo by Nick White