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Cornwallis name gone from Lunenburg street, but new name draws criticism

December 4, 2023

‘Stop erasing us from history,’ says Patricia Doyle-Bedwell

A red building with "Cornwallis Street" plaque on the side.
Critics say renaming Cornwallis Street to Queen Street misses the mark. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

CBC Indigenous: The renaming of Cornwallis Street in Lunenburg, N.S., to Queen Street misses the mark, critics say.

The town decided to go with Queen following the results of a public survey, but the whole point of replacing the name in the first place was to reflect Mi’kmaw culture. “First of all, I was happy they changed the name from Cornwallis, that was a positive step,” said Patricia Doyle-Bedwell, a professor of Indigenous Studies at Dalhousie University and Mi’kmaw woman from Potlotek First Nation.

“But I was very disappointed they didn’t use a Mi’kmaw name for that street. In Halifax, they’ve named streets after [late Mi’kmaw activist] Nora Bernard and there’s other places that have Mi’kmaw names.”

Edward Cornwallis, the founder of Halifax, issued a scalping proclamation against Mi’kmaw men, women and children. In recent years, places that were named after him have been renamed.

In addition to Nora Bernard Street in Halifax, the former Cornwallis Park in downtown Halifax is now Peace and Friendship Park.

Daniel Paul, a Mi’kmaw elder who died earlier this year, wrote a letter to Lunenburg’s mayor last year to say he was pleased that the name was eventually going to change as it had been a “sore spot” for him when he visited the town.

‘Disappointed and disheartened’

Paul had suggested Reconciliation Lane because it could apply to the coming together of the Indigenous peoples of Canada, but it was also inclusive of people who aren’t Indigenous. The name Reconciliation Street was one of nine names on a list of possible choices.

Margaret Knickle, a volunteer on the anti-racism committee that had recommended renaming Cornwallis Street, said she was disappointed Queen Street was chosen. “Disappointed and disheartened for the town I love…. We can do so much better,” Knickle said.

‘Stop erasing us from history’

Knickle suspects people may have voted for Queen because it was after Queen Elizabeth II died.

While council has already approved the name change, Knickle said there is still work to be done in consulting with the Mi’kmaw community. “We have an opportunity here to work collaboratively,” Knickle said.

Doyle-Bedwell said she plans to write a letter to the town to say “stop erasing us from history” and to encourage a second look at the name change.


Anjuli Patil

Reporter, Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia’s digital team.