WATCH: Victoria council voted Thursday to move ahead with a plan to remove the statue of Sir John A. MacDonald that has stood in front of City Hall since 1982. April Lawrence reports.
The plan to remove the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald from the Pandora Avenue entrance from Victoria City hall was approved after a discussion among councillors Thursday morning.
Councillors voted 7-1 in favour of removing the statue during a committee of the whole meeting on Thursday morning. Coun. Geoff Young was the one councillor who voted against the motion.
During the meeting, Young said the motion to remove the statue shows a lack of respect to citizens who want to participate in discussions as there wasn’t a public process before the decision. He said more discussion is needed.
While Coun. Pamela Madoff voted for the motion she wasn’t happy with the process either.
Mayor Lisa Helps announced on Wednesday that the statue would be removed after City Family, a group created by the municipality last year to address issues of reconciliation, decided to have the statue removed on Aug. 11. Council was asked to decide whether or not to endorse the decision.
“It’s been a year of discussion and deliberation, and we realized it’s going to be many years of reconciliation,” Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said on Wednesday.
“One of the things we heard very clearly from the Indigenous family members is that coming to city hall to do this work, and walking past John A. Macdonald every time, feels contradictory. And if the city is serious about reconciliation, which I would say we are, then one important thing we do is temporarily remove the [statue] from the front steps of city hall.”
Coun. Pamela Madoff and Coun. Chris Coleman also expressed concern about the decision but did support the motion. Madoff said she was concerned about the timing of the announcement and the lack of public notification. She said it made it unnecessarily contentious. Coleman was not pleased with the process that “made people very angry.”
Wearing a kilt, Eric Mcwilliam stood beside the statue Thursday, vowing to be there in “an act of disobedience” when it is removed on Saturday.
“He is the first Prime Minister of Canada and a Scottish Canadian, I too am a Scottish Canadian though I do believe all Canadians should be offended by the removal of our beautiful art and culture,” he said.
“It takes 10 years to pay some stupid bridge we paid three times for, it takes 10 years to build the McKenzie interchange and in three days we could have our culture erased, the expedience at which this took place is outstanding,” he added.
Indigenous artist Carey Newman was a member of the City Family and has his own personal story.
“I don’t speak my traditional language and that’s because it was taken from my father when he went to residential school so that’s one small way those policies impact my life,” he said.
“Now imagine if you were in residential school, imagine if you were abused in residential school how much more present that pain would be seeing the statue of that person that created the system to begin with.”
The final vote about whether to remove the statue will take place Thursday night but is expected to be endorsed. A plaque is set to replace the statue, saying “We will keep the public informed as the Witness Reconciliation Program unfolds, and as we find a way to recontextualize Macdonald in an appropriate way.”
Macdonald served as MP for Victoria from 1878 to 1882. He was the first prime minister of Canada from 1867 to 1873. He was again prime minister from 1878 to 1891.
The blog post from Helps notes that he “was a key architect of the Indian Residential School system” and that “the effects of which are well known to be still felt today both by school attendees and their children and grandchildren.”