Prince Edward County council held a special council meeting Monday evening to discuss public safety and security concerns amid growing tension surrounding the Sir John A Macdonald statue on Main Street in Picton.
The lengthy meeting ended with a vote to remove the statue from the downtown core.
The special council meeting was a heated one, as councillors and members of the public spoke passionately about the statue and the legacy of Canada’s first prime minister.
Over 40 residents spoke to council, with the overwhelming majority urging councillors to remove the monument — despite a recent decision to keep it in place.
Mayor Steve Ferguson started off the virtual meeting by acknowledging the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children in unmarked gravesites at the former site of a residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
The tragic discovery has sparked renewed debate about celebrating the legacy of historical figures like Macdonald, who played a major role in Canada’s residential school system.
Just last weekend, a vigil was held at the statue, which was still covered in red paint from a previous act of vandalism. In fact, the Picton statue is routinely vandalized, and a debate on whether to remove it from the downtown already took place last year.
Last November, Prince Edward Heritage Advisory Committee (PEHAC) voted to “acknowledge” the recommendation of a working group set up to advise on whether to remove the statue. The working group then voted for the removal of the statue from downtown Picton.
Despite the working group’s recommendation, county council voted to keep it where it is.
Monday night’s meeting was not meant to revisit the debate on whether to remove the statue. Rather, it was struck to address public safety and security as the threat of vandalism or protests grew in the wake of the Kamloops residential school discovery.
Nevertheless, the meeting, which lasted almost four hours, culminated with a motion to remove the statue.
And in a vote of 13 to one, council passed the decision to remove the controversial monument and place it in storage while a final decision is made on what to do with it.
— with files from Global News’ Alexandra Mazur