City crews in Charlottetown have taken down a controversial statue of Canada’s first prime minister.
The action this morning follows Monday’s vote by Charlottetown council to permanently remove the Sir John A. Macdonald statue from a downtown intersection as a response to recent revelations about Canada’s residential school system.
Council had been planning to improve signage and add an Indigenous figure to the Macdonald statue but decided to remove it entirely following the discovery last week of the remains of 215 children buried on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops.
A vigil was held Monday morning where demonstrators placed 215 pairs of shoes next to the statue of Macdonald, whose government introduced the residential school system in 1883.
The Epekwitk Mi’kmaq Chiefs issued a statement to say they are pleased to see Charlottetown city council has decided to remove the statue from its current location.
They say action on the issue has been long overdue, and the suggested changes will be needed if the statue is ever placed in a new location.
The wake of the Kamloops residential school mass grave discovery has rippled across the country as communities mourn, including Vancouver Island.
Federal records show five residential schools operated here on the Island, as well as other day schools.
“It still just gives me shivers to think about. I couldn’t imagine someone taking my daughter away,” said Colleen Smith, whose mother Margaret Wilson, was ripped from her family and forced to attend St. Michael’s Residential School in Alert Bay for eight years.
“The teacher would pull out a black book and they’d sit there in silence, scared, wondering whose name they were going to call because whoever’s name was in that book, was going to get beaten,” said Smith.
Shoes and candles have been placed on the steps at the B.C. Legislature in honour of the 215 children.