Calls for removal of John A. Macdonald statue in Victoria amid national debate
The debate over whether or not to remove Canada’s first prime minister from monuments, bills and plaques has made its way to B.C.’s capital.
Along with being Canada’s founding father, Sir John A. Macdonald also has the less-celebrated distinction of creating the country’s residential school system that saw First Nations families torn apart.
Detractors have even referred to the historical figure who once called First Nations children “savages” as an architect of genocide.
Last week, the Ontario Teachers Association called on the removal of Macdonald’s name from schools in the province.
A statue of Macdonald has sat at the steps of Victoria City Hall since the 1980s, but now a group is hoping council will remove or relocate it due to his controversial legacy.
“I understand for mainstream Canada he’s a founding father and he’s seen as a historically important figure, but part of the reality is what his policies were to Indigenous people,” said First Nations activist Bill Stewart. “To a lot of Indigenous people he’s a painful symbol.”
Status of Confederate leaders in the United States have recently been taken down amid similar debate, and have also been the source of protest and violence.
But at least one Victoria councillor says removing the statue of Canada’s first prime minister is a slippery slope.
“If we start to eliminate recognition of all those leaders, then we would find very quickly that we’re making efforts to forget out past entirely,” said Coun. Geoff Young.
Other elected officials say it’s at least a debate worth having.
“Either he should be moved, or if he stays, there should be definitely an added plaque so that he’s not just recognized as the prime minister,” said Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe.
As the conversation continues, Stewart says he plans to bring his group’s concerns to council soon – and ask city officials for the statue to be relocated or add a First Nations aspect to the front of City Hall.