WATCH: It took only three days to make the decision and remove the statue of John A. MacDonald from the front entrance of Victoria’s city hall. And though she stands by the controversial move, Mayor Lisa Helps is now apologizing.
Victoria mayor Lisa Helps is apologizing to Victoria residents who felt excluded from the decision to remove the Sir John A. Macdonald statue from the front of City Hall earlier this month.
“I apologize for not, having a broader perspective and getting that the community want to be involved in these important conversations,” Helps told CHEK News on Wednesday evening.
“It is a wake up call, there is a keen interest in our community for reconciliation and, going forward, we’ll make sure that the process is more inclusive.”
The decision to remove the statue of Canada’s first Prime Minister became a controversial issue nationwide.
While many praised the decision as a step towards reconciliation that can be used as an educational tool, others disagreed with the lack of public consultation to remove the statue.
On her campaign blog Wednesday, Helps said: “I knew that council had made the right decision (to remove the statue). And I still think that today.”
The city family was put together last year and consists of Indigenous and non-Indigenous members from Victoria and local First Nations.
The group was set up to address issues around reconciliation and recommended the statue be taken down, citing Macdonald’s role in establishing Canada’s residential school system.
City council then voted to move ahead with plans to remove the statue that had stood in front of City Hall since 1982.
On Aug. 11, MacDonald’s statue was taken away to storage and replaced with a plaque explaining the city’s decision.
“Reconciliation means following Indigenous leadership. It means listening carefully to how symbols and monuments that might be meaningful to many can create barriers for others,” Helps said in Wednesday’s blog.
“And it also means being in dialogue and creating opportunities for true learning and conversation among Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. But it is complex, and so we will make mistakes as we navigate and try to walk this road together.”
Helps called the statue’s city hall location as a “barrier to Indigenous communities’ engagement with city hall,” adding the city could not invite First Nations in good faith or with respect without relocating the statue.
She apologized for not recognizing the city family’s process might make some people “feel excluded from such an important decision.”
” I didn’t recognize the great desire of Victoria residents to participate in reconciliation actions. The process going forward will enable this.”
Helps said removing the statue does not erase history and credited Macdonald’s efforts to shape Canada into a strong democratic country.
“The statue’s relocation to a more appropriate public place — and all the conversations that have taken place and will continue to take place — only serve to broaden our understanding of Canadian history.”
The Victoria mayor finished her blog post by saying it is “time to move forward together.”
“As we work through the process of reconciliation as a community, with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations on whose homeland the city was built, we have the opportunity to create a more welcoming, inclusive city for everyone. And this is something I’ve heard loud and clear that all Victorians value,” Helps said.