09/11/2017 09:17 EDT | Updated 09/11/2017 11:42 EDT

Petition launched to rename N.S. river honouring contentious historical figure

KENTVILLE, N.S. — A debate sweeping the country over the naming of monuments and places after contentious historical figures has found a new flashpoint in rural Nova Scotia.

Petitions have been launched to change the name of the Cornwallis River, a roughly 50-kilometre tidal waterway that meanders through the Annapolis Valley, as well as the name of a bridge that crosses the river.

Upon learning of the petitions, the Town of Kentville covered up the name Cornwallis on a poster of a new bridge set to be built next year, noting that it never intended to name the new crossing after the former governor of Nova Scotia who issued a bounty on Mi'kmaq scalps.

Instead, chief administrative officer Mark Phillips says Cornwallis Bridge was a working name and that council passed a motion two years ago to name the new span after Kentville’s longest-serving mayor, Wendell Phinney.

He says a rendition of the long-awaited new bridge was printed on a large sign to show locals the design, and the town regrets the confusion caused by the oversight of leaving the working name in place.

Still, calls remain for the province to rename the Cornwallis River, with a petition suggesting the original Mi'kmaq name of Jijuktu’kwejk should be reinstated.

The Halifax Regional Municipality is reviewing its own naming policies after protests over a Cornwallis statue in the city's downtown.

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