As the statue of Edward Cornwallis was lowered onto a truck in Halifax on Wednesday to be taken away and placed in storage, a bald eagle soared high above.
Rebecca Moore, a Mi’kmaq woman who’s fought to see the statue fall, held a feather in the air, and dozens of people who’d gathered in the cold craned their necks to look up at the sacred bird.
It took workers hours to free the bronze statue from its granite pedestal.
Using power saws and crowbars, they cut away at the base under Cornwallis’s feet and rocked the statue till it broke free and a crane picked it up, lowering it onto the bed of a truck.
Earlier in the day, they’d pried off the former Nova Scotia governor’s name and a plaque honouring his founding of Halifax in 1749.
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Cornwallis issued a bounty on the scalps of Mi’kmaq people that same year, in response to a raid on a sawmill in what would become Dartmouth.
On Tuesday, Halifax regional council voted 12-4 to temporarily remove the statue, pending the outcome of a committee process to look at how Cornwallis’s name is used on municipal property like the statue, the name of the park where it sat, and a nearby street.
That process came to a halt last week then the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs announced it was pulling out, citing delays and demanding the statue be removed immediately.
During the debate Tuesday, numerous councillors called the statue a barrier to reconciliation between the municipality and the Mi’kmaq, and hoped the committee could be revived with this show of good faith.
If the committee can’t be struck, municipal staff will report back to council with other options for the statue in six months.
The statue is headed to an undisclosed municipal storage depot.
“It will be located at one of our municipal depots, but we are keeping that confidential, purely for safe-keeping,” HRM spokesperson Brendan Elliott said on Wednesday. “We don’t want to bring added attention and the potential of vandalism to the statue while it’s sitting in storage.”
The cost of removing the statue is estimated to be $ 25,000. It was sculpted and erected in 1931 for $ 20,000, paid for by Canadian National Railways, the province, and the city.