The City of Victoria is going to remove a statue of John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, outside of Victoria City Hall.
Victoria city council will be asked to endorse the decision to have the statue removed on Aug. 11 and have a plaque installed in its place.
LISTEN: Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps explains decision to remove Sir John A. Macdonald statue
In collaboration between the city and First Nations, the decision was made to have the plaque read: “In 2017, the City of Victoria began a journey of Truth and Reconciliation with the Lekwungen peoples, the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, on whose territories the city stands.
“The members of the City Family – part of the City’s Witness Reconciliation Program – have determined that to show progress on the path of reconciliation the City should remove the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald from the front doors of City Hall, while the City, the Nations and the wider community grapple with Macdonald’s complex history as both the first Prime Minister of Canada and a leader of violence against Indigenous Peoples.
“The statue is being stored safely in a city facility. We will keep the public informed as the Witness Reconciliation Program unfolds, and as we find a way to recontextualize Macdonald in an appropriate way. For more information please visit www.victoria.ca/reconciliation.”
In a letter on her campaign website, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps wrote that in addition to being the first prime minister of Canada, Macdonald was also a “key architect” of the Indian Residential School system.
WATCH: Victoria mayor explains why city hall has decided to remove John A. MacDonald statue
Helps added that after the Songhess and Esquimault Nations decide an “appropriate amount of time has passed” a cleansing, blessing and healing ceremony will be held in the space where the statue formerly stood.
LISTEN: Mike Smyth on the decision to remove the statue of John A. Macdonald (scroll to 2:30)
“After a year of discussion, deliberation, truth-sharing and seeking counsel from the Songhees and Esquimalt chiefs and councils on multiple occasions, the family decided on the first concrete action we would like to take as we continue the path of truth and reconciliation,” wrote Helps.
“I am ashamed to say that I have an undergraduate degree in Canadian history, a master’s in Canadian history and a half-completed PhD in Canadian history.
“It is not until we began this Witness Reconciliation Program that I learned about the role that Canada’s first prime minister played in developing residential schools, the effects of which are well known to be still felt today both by school attendees and their children and grandchildren.”
In 2017, the union that represents elementary school teachers in Ontario — the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (EFTO) — was pushing to remove Macdonald’s name from a handful of schools across the province.
The ETFO said at the time that using Macdonald’s name creates an unsafe environment for kids to learn and work in because of what it calls Macdonald’s role as the “architect of genocide against Indigenous Peoples.”
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