Victoria will remove John A. Macdonald statue outside of city hall
After a year of debate, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps has announced the statue of Canada’s first prime minister will no longer be in front of City Hall.
The statue will be removed on Saturday Aug. 11th and stored in a city facility. A plaque will be set up in its place explaining the decision to replace the statue.
In a blog posted Wednesday, Helps says it will be the first concrete action taken in the city’s formal process of reconciliation with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations.
The statue of Sir John A. Macdonald has sat at the steps of Victoria City Hall since the 1980s. Macdonald has a controversial legacy including the creation of the residential school system that saw First Nations families torn apart.
"I'm not in favour of erasing our collective history but I think it's the symbolism that I find more impactful here," said Ron Rice, the executive director of the Victoria Native Friendship Centre.
"It doesn’t change the fact that he was prime minister," said Rice. "It doesn’t change the fact that he is a big part of our history as a country. But I think that will remain, there’s just another paragraph that will be added on into his chapter."
Helps says the statue will be removed “so that the family members and other Indigenous people do not need to walk past this painful reminder of colonial violence each time they enter the doors of their municipal government.”
Coun. Geoff Young says he wants city hall to be a safe and welcoming place for all. However, he does think the public should have been included in the decision to remove the statue.
“I don’t like that it’s happened so suddenly,” said Young. “I think it is an issue that deserves public discussion. I think we have to think about what happens to the statue. I’m not totally happy with the idea let’s stick it in a warehouse until we decide what to do with it.”
Helps says the statue is city property and City Family, a group created by the municipality last year to address issues of reconciliation, has decided that this is the way towards reconciliation.
“This isn’t a decision for the public,” said Helps. “This is a decision for the City Family and I guess as well the City Council and sometimes taking leadership means taking action that is going to provoke these kinds of difficult conversations.”
Debates over removing Macdonald monuments have developed across the country. In 2017, Ontario teachers were pushing for the removal of his name on schools across the province.