Deborah Mensah-Bonsu, Special to
An Aboriginal leader says it's time to change the name of a national historic site that he says honours a British general who tried to wipe out the native population in the Maritimes.
John Joe Sark, a spiritual leader of the Mi'kmaq people in
"General Amherst was the guy that had blankets inoculated with small pox and had them given to Native people as gifts,"
The British named
Parks Canada said it does not have any comprehensive information about what happened between General Amherst and the Mi'kmaq in the 1700s.
"When it comes to linking specifically General Amherst to the Mi'kmaq we don't have any clear documentation that things like germ warfare were carried out," Jewel Cunningham, superintendent for Parks Canada P.E.I. told
She added that Parks Canada has been working with the Mi'kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. to interpret Mi'kmaq culture and history at the site.
Author and Mi'kmaq advocate Daniel N. Paul said he supports
"Let's put it this way, in the future I don't think there should ever be anything named after people who committed what can be described as crimes against humanity. I don't see why this should be any exception," Paul told
"There's so much that could be changed."
Paul has started a petition on his website to change the names of public places in
"He's part of history, so is
"I know there's some people around that are gonna be difficult to deal with, but I think we're fighting the good fight and we're gonna go with it 'til the end."
Cunningham said the name of the site has noting to do with idolatry.
"It's in no way a name that was selected to glorify or to honour a particular person. It's a name used by the British to name the fort and it's now a historic place-name that has been used for the last 250 years."
Some P.E.I. locals from
Local Mark Cooper said, "It's been that way for centuries. It's just part of the local fabric.
The site receives up to 20,000 visitors per season, she said.
"It might be a good policy for
P.E.I. local Bert Christie said he understands
"I can see his point," Christie told
Cunningham said there have been name changes on sites in the past, but so far no formal proposal has been received.
"I guess anyone could potentially ask for a name change. We would review it and determine if it's appropriate."
The final decision rests with the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, and the process would take at least a year, she said.
Baird tried to distance himself from the topic earlier this week after
"To have a place named after General Amherst would be like having a city in
Baird responded to the remark by saying, "I don't generally comment on people who quote Adolf Hitler or make comparisons to him."
He was not available for any further comment.