WATCH: Victoria City Council has been asked to review Sir John A. Macdonald statue due to the first prime minister’s treatment of indigenous people. Isabelle Raghem reports.
He’s the face that greets you at Victoria City Hall but some are wondering if that’s where he belongs.
“A lot of what he did is not something we should be proud of, something we should be very aware, “said local activist Torrance Coste on Thursday. “To present it out of context like a statue and something we’re celebrating, it isn’t a way to build that understanding.”
Sir John A Macdonald is considered the architect of the Indian Act and the residential school system. He was known to have called First Nations children savages who should be assimilated into white culture.
That’s the story Coste says the public doesn’t get walking by the statue.
“There’s a small plaque that says he was the first prime minister and not too much more and again it overshadows things we shouldn’t be proud of.”
While its removal has been discussed at city hall, there has yet to be a formal motion presented to council.
Coun. Geoff Young says he’s hoping the statue will stay.
“I’m very hesitant of the idea of removing all those links to our past history where there is any degree of controversy attached given today’s standards,” Young said.
The debate comes as the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario passed a motion to strip Sir John A. Macdonald from schools, which will ultimately be decided by the school boards. It has sparked heated opposition across the country.
“It’s one of the most crazy, ridiculous things I’ve ever heard to simply erase Canadian history in the guise of an extreme and radical political correctness, ” said former foreign affairs minister John Baird, “Sir Wilfrid Laurier didn’t allow women to vote. Should we rechange the name of Laurier Avenue in Ottawa?”
It’s not the first time a historical figure has caused controversy on Vancouver Island.
Last winter, residents in Port Alberni requested some streets such as Indian Ave. and Neill St. be renamed, as well as A.W. Neill Elementary School. Those recommendations that have since been put aside.
Young says removing the statue of Sir. John A. MacDonald is a slippery slope.
“I’d be concerned there may be no end to that policy of revising our history,? Young said.
Coste said whether Macdonald stays or goes in front of city hall, he hopes the debate will make people look at the statue with a critical eye.
“While it’s important to recognize the roles of historical politicians, we also have to remember the full context of those figures,? Coste said.