CHARLOTTETOWN – Parks Canada is being advised to consider revising the name of a national park in Prince Edward Island to better reflect its Mi’kmaq history, but it has also received a recommendation that the name of a military officer who wanted to kill aboriginal people with smallpox should remain.
An excerpt from a meeting of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada last September recommended that parks officials consult with the Mi’kmaq community to see if there is a historic name for Rocky Point, where the Port-la-Joye – Fort Amherst historic site is located.
John Joe Sark, a member of the Mi’kmaq Nation traditional government, has submitted Mi’kmaq names for Parks Canada to consider, but he says he won’t be satisfied until the name of General Jeffery Amherst is scrubbed from the historic site.
“They talk on one side about truth and reconciliation, but when you tell them the truth, they don’t want to do anything about it,”says Sark. “You don’t right wrongs by keeping the name of a tyrant.”
Sark has been campaigning for the name change since 2008, arguing that is insulting because Amherst’s goal was to wipe out aboriginal peoples.
The board said it discussed Sark’s request at length, but ultimately determined that Amherst’s name should remain because of the location’s historical ties to the British government.
In a letter dated April 9 to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, Sark disputes this justification, saying there is no historic record of Amherst spending time at Port-la-Joye.
Parks Canada was not immediately available for comment Sunday.
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, such as Amherstburg, Ont., bear his name.
Amherst College in Massachusetts said last month the British military commander would no longer appear in school communications or as an unofficial mascot. Lord Jeff – as he was known around campus – was seen as an oppressive figure who supported using blankets infected with smallpox to kill aboriginal people.