2020-09-16

Lunenburg establishes anti-racism committee

by Keith Corcoran

Lunenburg is looking to Black, Indigenous, and other people-of-colour stakeholders and experts to develop an anti-racism and discrimination action plan for the town.

The town plans to have terms-of-reference and membership finalized during an upcoming council meeting. The terms-of-reference may include other forms of discrimination beyond racial. An invitation went out to Acadia First Nations to invite their chief or a representative to become a member.

Council's decision came after Jessika Hepburn's presentation to civic politicians in July, which included advice on the formation of an anti-racism group. The local resident serves on a similar-type committee in the Shelburne area.

Hepburn put forward a petition requesting renaming Cornwallis and Creighton Streets to honour Mi'kmaq and Black communities. There have been calls for years to have Edward Cornwallis's name removed from monuments, rivers, schools and other fixtures in various communities because he called for a bounty on Mi'kmaq scalps soon after his Chebucto Harbour entrance in the mid-1700s.

Creighton Street shares the same surname as one of the town's founding fathers who served in Cornwallis's militia and was said to be a slave owner.

Hepburn's presentation contained calls for Lunenburg to make a public statement condemning racism "in our community, recognizing historic and current systemic racism and committing to building an anti-racist community."

There were other requests, including "a timeline for reviewing and updating Cornwallis and Creighton Streets and all interpretive signage to include Mi'kmaq and Black history created in consultation with those communities as called for in the initial petition."

The new committee's mandate includes identifying "ways and means to eliminate barriers to employment, policies, procedures and practices that may negatively impact ... members of the community," reads a staff report authored by heritage manager Arthur MacDonald and assistant municipal clerk Heather McCallum.

The committee would "strive to showcase the rich cultural heritage of all peoples on the Town of Lunenburg's literature, plaques, interpretive panels, street naming policy, events, website and other media/communication platforms with particular attention to African Nova Scotian and Indigenous histories."

It would also "make recommendations on how implementation and ongoing monitoring through an inclusivity, diversity, and anti-racism lens can be achieved in the Town of Lunenburg and/or the surrounding area going forward."

McCallum's and MacDonald's written report indicated it's anticipated the committee's work would take one year to complete.

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