CHARLOTTETOWN – A national park in Prince Edward Island that bears the name of a controversial British general will be renamed.
Parks Canada confirmed Friday that it will add a Mi’kmaq name to the Port-la-Joye—Fort Amherst National Historic Site, which is near Charlottetown.
Indigenous critics have long complained that the General Jeffery Amherst’s name should be removed because he stands accused of trying to wipe out the Mi’kmaq by giving them blankets inflected with smallpox.
Catherine McKenna, the federal minister responsible for Parks Canada, issued a statement saying the Mi’kmaq name “skmaqn” (pronounced Ska-MAA-kin) will be added to the park’s name.
McKenna said skmaqn means “the waiting place” and is thought to have its origins in the mid-1700s when Mi’kmaq and French leaders met annually at the site to renew their military alliance.
The official name of the site will now be Skmaqn—Port-la-Joye—Fort Amherst National Historic Site of Canada.
McKenna said the name change was made in the “spirit of reconciliation,” adding that no relationship is more important to the federal government than the one with Indigenous Peoples.
She said the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) is making the change on the recommendation of the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of Prince Edward Island.
“The HSMBC is aware of public concerns related to sites, events, or persons of national historic significance with ties to colonialism, racism, or other forms of discrimination,” McKenna said.
“Parks Canada is committed to working respectfully with Indigenous Peoples, and to a system of national heritage places that recognizes Indigenous traditions, cultures and contributions to Canada.”
John Joe Sark, a member of the Mi’kmaq Nation traditional government, has been campaigning for a name change since 2008: “You don’t right wrongs by keeping the name of a tyrant,” he said last year.
Montreal struck Amherst’s name from a city street last fall.
Amherst, an officer in the British Army in the mid-1700s, is considered a key architect of British victories in the Seven Years’ War for control of New France territories in North America. Several places in the U.S. and Canada, including Amherst, N.S., and Amherstburg, Ont., bear his name.
Amherst College in Massachusetts said last year the British military commander would no longer appear in school communications or as an unofficial mascot.