Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps has apologized for making people feel they were excluded from the decision to remove the Sir John A. Macdonald statue from in front of Victoria City Hall. Helps has posted to her campaign blog explaining that after reflecting on the process she feels a need to explain more of the decision process.
“As mayor of Victoria, I apologize for not recognizing that the city family’s process might make some people feel excluded from such an important decision,” writes Helps. “I didn’t recognize the great desire of Victoria residents to participate in reconciliation actions. The process going forward will enable this.”
Helps announced on Aug. 8 that after a year of consultation and support from the city family, the statue was going to be removed. It was taken down from city hall three days later following a vote by city council.
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The move has received national attention and Helps has been criticized for not including more people in the process for deciding when the statue was going to be removed and what was going to happen with the statue. To take action on reconciliation, Victoria city council created the city family, a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous members appointed in June 2017.
“When city council voted to endorse the city family’s decision to relocate the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald from the steps of city hall and expressed a desire to work with the community to find a more appropriate public space for it, I knew that council had made the right decision. And I still think that today,” writes Helps.
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“This action was not, as many news articles have suggested, a symbolic or empty gesture. The statue in its original location was a barrier to Indigenous communities’ engagement with city hall.”
One of the sharpest criticisms came from the statue’s sculptor, John Dann. In a letter published by the Globe and Mail, Dann described the city’s decision as “misguided.”
“For this reason, I find Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps’ actions precipitous and misguided, for they were done in secret, hurriedly (in the span of 10 days), arbitrarily and undemocratically. If the tearing down of my sculpture is the best way to move forward, then I am all for it, but I cannot believe that any rational person who has reflected on our history can really think that removing about 150 kilos of bronze from view is going to change our history, or help us understand it better,” wrote Dann.
Helps has now invited Dann to a meeting at city hall along with the John A. Macdonald Society. The statue is now in storage as the city works to figure out what to do with it.
“I made a public commitment to bring the wishes of council and the public for a wider community conversation about reconciliation and a new location for the statue to the city family. I will do this,” said Helps.
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“The statue’s relocation to a more appropriate public place — and all the conversations that have taken place and will continue to take place — only serve to broaden our understanding of Canadian history.”