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ia photo series highlights lack of diversity in Halifax monuments

Women, people of marginalized communities, not being represented well, says society

Sarah Toye feels the monuments in the Halifax area should be more representative of its people. Toye is the secretary of the Halifax Women’s History Society (HWHS). She recently started a social media series – Halifax Manuments – through the society’s Instagram account. “We are bothered by the dominance of a single demographic in the public space in Halifax,” Toye said Thursday. In other words, there’s a lack of monuments for women, Indigenous peoples and other marginalised communities.

The Edward Cornwallis statue, often a subject of local debate, was the first installment of the photo series. However, Toye makes it clear that the HWHS is not protesting Halifax’s existing monuments or calling for their removal. “That’s really not what we’re about,” she said. “I think maybe trying to create a more inclusive public space will be the first step into thinking about these things.” Toye explained that while there has been a lot of recent discussion around diversity in media and curriculums, she thinks the topic of public space has been neglected. “I was just thinking of a way we could highlight this in a more powerful way, because we talk about it all the time,” she said. “I was looking for something that would hit home, and images are so powerful.”

The hope is that the HWHS will be able to reach more people through social media, as well as addressing the issue in a light-hearted way. Toye wants it to be an approachable conversation, because “preaching to the choir doesn’t do anything.”Toye also referred to a statue of Shannen Koostachin, a Cree woman, in Ontario. She feels it’s a great example of a female-driven monument. “Who wouldn’t want a statue like that around?” she said. One step towards diversity is the HWHS Woman on the Waterfront project to honour female World War II volunteers. That launched back in October. The society is in the process of finding an artist to create the statue. It will feature a little girl and two adult women, including an African-Nova Scotian woman. “It’s just unrealistic to think (women) didn’t do anything to deserve a permanent place here,” said Toye.