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Council moves forward on changes to Sir John A. Macdonald legacy in Kingston

Statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in Kingston City Park. mike postovit/corus entertainment

Kingston city council met for a second day in a row Wednesday evening to discuss several matters, including the legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald in the city.

Council debated for over three hours recommendations from a city staff report that put forward suggestions from the city’s “Your Stories, Our Histories” public engagement project. That project, part of the umbrella “Sir John A. 360°” initiative, gauged public response to how the city should be representing MacDonald’s history locally.

Read more: Kingston, Ont., protesters ask city to remove City Park Sir John A. Macdonald statue

A local touchpoint for the debate has been a statue of Macdonald in City Park. Protesters have repeatedly called for its removal, but the city has opted rather than to remove historical monuments, to add context to them.

“While most of the people who participated in the ‘Your Stories, Our Histories’ project indicated a desire to see the monument remain in place, others continue to call for its removal,” the report noted.

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Several recommendations in the report were passed, including removing the plaques that stand by the Spirit of John A. locomotive in Confederation Park and the statue of Macdonald that stands in City Park.

They will be replaced with new plaques that “tell a more complete and inclusive account of their histories in a Kingston context,” according to the city report.

Council also voted to form a working group that includes both Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members to develop a more historically accurate account of Macdonald on the city’s website.

The group also unanimously agreed to add a land recognition statement to the city’s website and at the bottom of all email signatures.

Click to play video: 'Sir John A. Macdonald plaques vandalized in Cataraqui Cemetery'
Sir John A. Macdonald plaques vandalized in Cataraqui Cemetery

Lastly, the city will support naming the city’s third crossing in a way that reflects and celebrates the Indigenous community.

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But council voted to defer their decision on whether to remove the name of “The spirit of Sir John A.” from the locomotive at confederation park. The debate over that matter won’t happen until the first quarter of 2021.

Wednesday’s decisions come after two years of consultations with First Peoples Group — an Ottawa-based Indigenous advisory group — that provided insight on how the city should represent MacDonald’s legacy, including his role in residential schools.

These minor changes or “tweaks” to Kingston’s representation of Macdonald, the group says, will show “the City of Kingston is willing to change the current conversation and influence how people perceive the city and its history,” according to the report.

The group then recommended the city focus on more substantive changes, and finally “labour-intensive systemic changes that require the City of Kingston to evolve how it does business to ensure that greater equity, diversity and inclusion are achieved through its policies and practices.”

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