Looking ahead to the future while examining the past is the challenge for a handful of Southeastern Ontario municipalities when it comes to the legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald.
Prince Edward County is the latest to look at their situation.
Municipal officials are looking for public input on a statue of Canada’s first prime minister, located in the heart of downtown Picton, Ont. Peter Lockyer is a historian, journalist and documentary maker, and was also part of the Prince Edward Heritage Advisory Committee that helped make the sculpture possible.
“Whether you consider him famous or infamous as our greatest resident ever of Prince Edward County, he still existed,” Lockyer said.
“He still walked these streets, he still had his first court case here, he still became prime minister.”
A statue of Macdonald is the centrepiece of a larger sculpture that features a prisoner’s dock and chair. Titled “Holding Court” by Canadian artist Ruth Abernethy, the design shows Macdonald presenting his first court case at the age of 19 in October, 1834.
With history showing that the country’s first prime minister did both good as well as bad, the county is now asking for public feedback on the statue and its place in the community.
Lockyer has his take on what’s happening.
“From my own personal point of view as a member of the committee that created the sculpture is that we’re missing a tremendous learning opportunity by suggesting that we take it away or don’t talk about John A. anymore,” he said.
“I think that we can add context rather then take away history right now.”
Though times and dates are still to be announced, Prince Edward County Public Library is hosting a speaker series to explore the broader historical context of Canada’s first prime minister.
Kingston is also going through a similar review as it looks back at Macdonald’s legacy.