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Annual ceremony commemorating Sir John A. Macdonald speaks on his controversial past

Click to play video: 'Kingston Historical Society hosts virtual ceremony for Sir John A. Macdonald' Kingston Historical Society hosts virtual ceremony for Sir John A. Macdonald
WATCH: The Kingston Historical Society hosted a virtual ceremony to commemorate Sir John A MacDonald on his day of remembrance. The Indigenous community gather at the former Prime Minister's gravesite to speak about reconciliation. – Jun 6, 2021

The Kingston Historical society hosted a virtual service remembering Sir John A. Macdonald on the 130th anniversary of his death.

The group missed the opportunity to gather last year due to COVID-19 social distancing protocol, which led them to go virtual this year and record fresh content along with the previous year’s footage mixed in.

“I think it’s important each year that we pause to pay tribute to the positive impact our first Prime Minister had on the founding of our country,” said Vincent Durant, the president of the Kingston Historical Society.

While most of the event was pre-recorded on May 24, an introductory comment offering condolences was added to address the horrifying discovery of 215 children in Kamloops. Macdonald’s imperfect past was also brought up as he was the Prime Minister during a time when residential schools were running.

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Read more: Hundreds in convoy to Kamloops to show support for Indigenous Canadians

“The frame of reference that drove his work, was not one that recognized the sense of injustice, the lack of obligation that Canadian’s now understand to be essential to the reconciliation and respectful partners with First Nations,” said the Honourable Hugh Segal, former Conservative Senator.

The speakers list consisted of the Kingston Historical Society’s team, the mayor, members of the church and the Cataraqui Cemetery representatives. It is unclear if any Indigenous representatives were asked to participate. Some Indigenous community members gathered at the former Prime Minister’s gravesite to draw attention to MacDonald’s past.

“Three components to reconciliation are acknowledgment, accountability, and reparations. What has been going on is not reconciliation, it’s Canada’s version of ‘shut-up, take it, that’s our reconciliation,'” said Abenaki Wilwini, an Indigenous resident.

Calls for Sir John A. Macdonald’s statues to be removed continue to echo throughout the country. Last week, Charlottetown city council voted unanimously to remove his statue that sat in the downtown core. Indigenous community members in Kingston say they want to see the same thing happen with the statue in City Park.

Read more: Moving and removing statues: Indigenous advocates want to see ‘justice’ in Canada

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“It needs to come down. That statue needs to come down, it’s painful for Indigenous people, and the city leaving it up … what the city is saying is they value white patriarchy over the feelings of Indigenous people,” said Zoogipon Ikewe, another Indigenous resident.

Indigenous community members say there can’t be any progress in reconciliation if the statue remains up.

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