June 18, 1999 Halifax Herald

Chebucto 500: a beautiful city, a jaded past

June 18, 2249: Joe Jones, a white Chebucto Herald columnist, reported Mi'kmaq plans to participate in the 500th anniversary of the founding of the City of Chebucto, formerly Halifax:

"The Chiefs of the Mi'kmaq announced today that they have decided to end their 250 year old boycott of city birthday celebrations. Their decision to participate in the 500th. was made for two reasons: First, the white majority condemned Edward Cornwallis for his attempts to exterminate their ancestors. Second, in thanks for the assistance received afterwards, which enabled them to rebuild their civilization to the extent that they now enjoy a great deal of autonomy and financial independence.

“It was 200 years ago, 2049, when the majority began to reconcile with the Mi'kmaq in earnest. The first major step taken to end the estrangement was when the legislature enacted an Act on May 4, 2049, that condemned Cornwallis for his actions. As an added bonus, the legislation also contained a passage that condemned Governor Charles Lawrence for the horrendous deed of expelling the Acadian population in 1755. With the passage of the Condemnation Act, the names of both disgraced colonial governors were removed from all public building, streets, etc., and statues of them, erected in public places, were destroyed.

“The changed attitudes which begot the Condemnation Act made possible a great deal of positive change in our society. It’s awesome to look back now and see what good will, combined with the end of the notion that one race had intellectual superiority over another because of its colour, did. Old wounds were healed, apologies were made and accepted, and, amazingly, what we take for granted today, people began to treat one another as equals.

“The decision by that era's majority's to admit that many immoral men had walked the streets of the former Halifax and its suburbs, and had committed some very evil deeds over the first 300 years of Chebucto's history - genocide, ethnic cleansing, religious persecution, etc. - was good news for future racial harmony in Nova Scotia. It’s now widely accepted that the admission planted the seeds for the society of equals that we enjoy today.

“History relates that making amends wasn't easy. However, once the reconciliation process started, it snowballed. For example, the insulting myth that the founding of Halifax signified the beginning of democracy and responsible government in Canada was laid to rest in 2075. It was then that both federal and provincial governments conceded that the vast majority of Canada's original inhabitants had enjoyed democracy and responsible government for countless centuries before Europeans arrived in the Americas.

“The fact that it took government almost three centuries to recognize what various 18th and 19th century white scholars had before acknowledged is a measure of the evils of the racism instilled in the people of that era. Today, it seems unbelievable that racism caused them to ignore the declarations made by those scholars, that Native American liberty and justice provided the role model for world democratic enlightenment. The following are two examples of the declarations:

“Jack Weatherford, author of Liberty, Anarchism, and the Noble Savage," describes how Europeans copied the democratic principles developed by Native North Americans: ‘During this era [the 1700s] the thinkers of Europe forged the ideas that became known as the European Enlightenment, and much of its light came from the torch of Indian liberty that still burned brightly in the brief period between their first contact with the Europeans and their decimation by the Europeans.’ Thomas Paine, English Quaker turned political radical, and historian, used the Native civilizations as models of how a free white society might be organized.

“I can only speculate what Daniel N. Paul (1938/2037), a 20th century Mi'kmaq activist who, in the 1980s, began a crusade to win social justice for his people, would think of the situation today. Back then, the Mi'kmaq were excluded from practically every aspect of the province's political and social life: no members of Parliament, no MLAs, no judges, etc. Their status was very similar to that of the South African Blacks under apartheid - a horror of exclusion I learned about when I read the history of that country while studying for my Masters Degree.

“In 1993, as part of his campaign, Paul wrote a damming book about white society's mistreatment of his people, entitled We Were Not the Savages. It caused many in the white community to begin to examine their consciences; it also caused many to castigate him and go into denial. At the end of the century, Paul noted that racial prejudice against the Mi'kmaq in Nova Scotia still prevailed, witnessed by the fact that not one had ever held a senior decision-making office in the Province. The age of enlightenment was not then in sight."

Now a question for the present: During the first fifty years of the new millennium, will the exclusion of the Mi'kmaq finally end or will deep-seated racism see it continue eternally?

Daniel N. Paul


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