Canadian city votes to take down controversial statue

FILE PHOTO: A municipal employee covers the statue of Halifax founder Edward Cornwallis, during a protest in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, July 15, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Donovan/File Photo

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Eastern Canada city of Halifax on Tuesday agreed to take down a polarizing statue of Edward Cornwallis, an 18th-century British governor who offered cash bounties for killing indigenous people.

Cornwallis was a British military officer and governor of Nova Scotia who sought to eradicate indigenous Mi’kmaq people in his attempts to establish Halifax.

Indigenous groups last summer held protests demanding that the statue be taken down, met by counter-protests by right-wing groups. Another protest was planned for the coming weekend over the city’s inaction on the matter.

“If we want reconciliation, we pull down the statue immediately,” said Councillor Richard Zurawski, according to the Toronto Star newspaper. “Let’s end the 500 years of broken promises and take away this visual symbol of supremacy.”

The city council voted to put the statue in temporary storage until authorities determine how to best to commemorate the polarizing figure.

“The statue has increasingly become a flashpoint for protests,” city staff said in a note on the city council’s agenda for its Tuesday meeting. They warned that the statue could pose a threat to public safety if protests continued.

The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs welcomed the move.

“The Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia have continued to voice concerns on this statue and how history is commemorated, considering the atrocities that were experienced by our ancestors at the hands of Edward Cornwallis,” the assembly said in a statement.

Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Sandra Maler