WATCH: Victoria’s mayor says a series of public consultations will happen over the next five or six months regarding the future of the Macdonald statue and reconciliation in general.
Victoria’s mayor says a series of public consultations will happen over the next five or six months regarding the future of the Sir John A. Macdonald statue and reconciliation in general.
The statue was taken down last summer in a move towards reconciliation with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations.
Proponents said the move was appropriate, given Macdonald’s role as an architect of cultural genocide.
Opponents felt it was disrespectful to Canadian history.
“Unsettling colonization is unsettling,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “It is very challenging to grapple with the fact that the City of Victoria is built on someone else’s homelands, and that causes all sorts of feelings for all sorts of people. And that’s really what the Victoria reconciliation dialogues are going to ask all of us to grapple with.”
City council has dedicated $10,000 toward the statue’s eventual relocation, though no plan has been drawn up yet.
Dr. Reuben-Rose Redwood, a member of the Indigenous Solidarity Working Group, said its place should be in a museum.
“We talk about putting figures up on a pedestal and this is quite literally what a statue does in a public space,” he said. “Whereas, if you put it in a museum, it’s not putting it up on a pedestal and honouring that person, but rather, if you put it in a museum, you’re contextualizing the history of that individual in Canadian history.”
Geoff Young, the only councillor who voted against the statue’s removal, said he wants it displayed in another public place.
“I don’t think we should simply give it away to another city, and we did receive a number of requests from other cities saying essentially, ‘If you don’t want it, we’ll take it,’ and I don’t think we should do that,” Young said.
John Dann, the sculptor who was commissioned by the Sir John A. Macdonald Society of Vancouver in 1981 to create the statue, said he does not want it to be a monument anymore. Instead, he would like to be part of a travelling exhibit to help educate Canadians.
“Quite honestly, I was not even aware that residential schools existed, I’m ashamed to say it,” he said. “The education I received at one of Canada’s most prestigious schools was horrendous, it was awful. We never studied any of this stuff. We were totally ignorant of the oppression, of the genocide of the Indigenous people in North America.”
Dann said he believes that it would be an affront to Indigenous peoples to re-erect the statue in a public place as a tribute to Macdonald.