Kristyn Anthony, Victoria News, August 8, 2018
Sir John A. Macdonald will no longer guard the doors of Victoria City Hall.
In a statement to her campaign website, incumbent Mayor Lisa Helps announced Wednesday morning the statue of the former Canadian prime minister who also served as Victoria’s MP, will be removed Saturday (Aug. 11).
As the Minister of Indian Affairs during Canada’s implementation of residential schools, Macdonald’s legacy is a controversial one.
In her post, Helps included a quote from Macdonald: “When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with its parents, who are savages, and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and training mode of thought are Indian,” he said in 1879.
“He is simply a savage who can read and write. It has been strongly impressed upon myself, as head of the Department, that Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men.”
The decision to remove the statue was made in June 2017 through the City’s Witness Reconciliation Program and City Family.
The two groups were formed between the City and the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations in an effort to lead a more “Indigenous-focused approach” to reconciliation.
“We will remove the statue of Sir John A. MacDonald from the front doors of city hall so that the family members and other Indigenous people do not need to walk past this painful reminder of colonial violence each time they enter the doors of their municipal government,” Helps said.
The statue – in place since 1982 – will be stored in a city facility until a decision is made to “recontextualize” Macdonald, according to the statement.
In its place a plaque will be installed and eventually, a cleansing, blessing healing ceremony will be held, followed by a piece of art representing the Lekwungen culture (as determined by council in 2016).
“We do not propose to erase history but rather to take the time through the process of truth-telling and reconciliation as part of the Witness Reconciliation Program to tell this complex and painful chapter of Canadian history in a thoughtful way,” Helps said.