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Parks Canada refuses to rename site that commemorates general who wanted to use small pox against Indigenous peoples

Field Marshall Jeffrey Amherst, the first British Governor General in the territories that eventually became Canada.

Parks Canada has refused a request from the Mi’kmaq Grand Council and the Council of Canadians to remove the name Amherst from an historic site near Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

Council of Canadians vice-chairperson Leo Broderick wrote federal environment minister Catherine McKenna in February 2016 on this issue.

In that letter, Broderick stated, “The Council of Canadians is asking you, as Minster 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.”

Broderick highlighted, “We 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 February 2016, Parks Canada external relations manager Barb MacDonald stated, “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.”

That seemed hopeful, but eight months after the request was made the Board said no – and five months after that Parks Canada conveyed the decision to Broderick.

In a letter to Broderick, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board writes, “The Board discussed the request at length and could not recommend that the historic place name of Fort Amherst be removed from the official name of the national historic site…”

This despite the historical record that General Amherst wrote in 1763: “Could it not be contrived to send the small pox among the disaffected tribes of Indians? We must on this occasion use every stratagem in our power to reduce them.”

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.'”

To read Broderick’s letter to federal environment minister Catherine McKenna on this matter, please click here.