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Parks Canada may change name of historic site after Council of Canadians request

Soon to be renamed?

On February 19, Council of Canadians vice-chairperson Leo Broderick wrote Catherine McKenna to ask her to remove the name “Amherst” from an historic site near Charlottetown.

Broderick wrote, “The Council of Canadians is asking you, as Minister responsible for Parks Canada, to support the request of Dr. John Joe Sark, Keptin of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council (PEI) to remove the name of Amherst from an historic site near Charlottetown and replace it with a more appropriate name in keeping with what the Mi’kmaq people of Prince Edward Island desire. …We therefore ask you Minister McKenna to show respect and sensitivity to the Mi’kmaq people by honouring the request of Keptin John Joe Sark and rename this historic site in consultation with Keptin Sark and the Mi’kmaq nation.”

In terms of further context, the Canadian Press has reported, “It’s a ‘grave insult’ that a national park in Prince Edward Island still bears the name of a military general who wanted to kill aboriginal people with smallpox, says a Mi’kmaq leader. John Joe Sark, a member of the Mi’kmaq Nation traditional government, says the name of 18th-century British military commander Jeffery Amherst should be removed from the Port-la-Joye–Fort Amherst historic site near Charlottetown. …’He may be a hero to the colonial government or the Settlers’ Society or whatever, but he’s no hero to the Mi’kmaq people.'”

On January 29, Sark wrote the minister asking her to change the park’s name. While McKenna did not respond to Sark, CBC reported, “[On Feb. 8], Parks Canada responded in an email to CBC News outlining the process for such a change while not committing to it. ‘Should there be a formal request from the public to change the name of the National Historic Site, Parks Canada would engage with the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada for its recommendation’, said Barb MacDonald, Parks Canada’s external relations manager. …It’s not clear whether Sark’s letter to the minister constitutes a ‘formal request’ as laid out in the email.”

On February 25, CBC reported, “The Council of Canadians is putting its support behind a Mi’kmaq Grand Council member’s petition to change the name of the Port-la-Joye—Fort Amherst National Historic Site. …The issue was brought to the Council of Canadians by a P.E.I. board member, who sent the federal government a letter echoing Sark’s request. Brent Patterson is political director for the Council of Canadians. He says Amherst should not be honoured with a park in his name. ‘Changing a name is a very basic and reasonable request to make, certainly in terms of the present day and exercising some sensitivity and respect’, said Patterson. Parks Canada says it’s looking into the letter from the Council of Canadians.”

Now the Guardian newspaper reports, “Parks Canada is putting forward a request to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada to look into renaming Port-la-Joye-Fort Amherst, a national historic site on the southwestern entrance to Charlottetown Harbour. This is coming after local aboriginal leaders, the P.E.I. Presbytery of the United Church of Canada and the Council of Canadians have all expressed wishes to have the name changed. ‘It is important that Canada’s heritage places recognize the traditional use of these special places and that they accurately and respectfully tell the stories of the history, cultures and contributions of indigenous people’, Parks Canada said in a written statement to press.”

We look forward to the renaming of the park.