The statue of Sir John A. Macdonald has adorned the front steps of Victoria city hall since 1982. Nicole Crescenzi/VICTORIA NEWS

Removal of Macdonald statue prompts confusion over City process

Coun. Coleman: We have made people very angry in this process and that has not been helpful.

In a 7-1 vote, Victoria city council, sitting as committee of the whole, voted Thursday to remove the statue of Sir John. A Macdonald from the entrance to City Hall.

The decision comes on the heels of Mayor Lisa Helps’ announcement that the statue would be removed Saturday (Aug. 11), as per a decision made by the City Family and the Witness Reconciliation Program.

RELATED: Victoria to remove Sir John A. Macdonald statue from City Hall

The two groups were formed in 2017 between the City and the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations in an effort to lead a more “Indigenous-focused approach” to reconciliation.

The framework, endorsed by council in June 2017, states: “For the City to do more than talk about Reconciliation, we must be prepared to question convention, learn from Indigenous custom and tradition, and risk doing things differently than our usual routines and processes.”

Still, several councillors expressed skepticism to the process Thursday due to its lack of consultation with the public.

This decision to unbolt the statue with “almost no notice” was not satisfactory, said Coun. Geoff Young, who cast the lone vote against the motion. He added the process has been disrespectful to citizens who want to have a say in the discussion.

Mayor Helps responded that a public debate would only prolong the decision with opinions going back and forth.

“That’s where leadership is required,” she said. “No matter when this decision would be made, it would be a contentious decision.”

This discussion has been going on for years, she said, adding both council and the Sir John A. Macdonald Historical Society “got a heads up.”

RELATED: Rewriting history simply complicated

Councillors Chris Coleman and Pamela Madoff shared their hesitation to vote in favour of the motion given the letters and emails received over the past 24 hours from constituents. The pair both agreed the agenda item was a surprise, with Madoff pointing out that regardless of council’s decision, how the public is informed is “so important.”

“I recognize that we have made people very angry in this process and that has not been helpful,” Coleman said.

Coun. Marianne Alto expressed concern about the message council is sending to local First Nations about its intentions in respectfully approaching reconciliation outside the “conventional hierarchical structure.”

“We acknowledged repeatedly that this was going to be extraordinarily challenging,” she said. “And, that its very essence relied on us accepting that reality.”

RELATED: Sir John A. Macdonald’s role in residential schools

Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe shared a story of the impact the statue had on her conducting historical tours of Chinatown for the last 25 years.

“Part of the tour is the acknowledgement that the Chinese lost the vote and were required to pay a head tax and then walking by that statue not realizing that was the person who [implemented] that,” she said, visibly emotional.

The removal of the statue is not about rewriting history, she said, but rather reflecting on whether city hall, “a building that is welcome for all,” is the proper location for it to stand.

“History cannot be erased,” Thornton-Joe said. “History is there but I think how we tell history and the truth telling is really important. There are many great things Sir John A. Macdonald did for the country and should be recognized, but the other story needs to be told.”

Council will make a final decision at tonight’s meeting.

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Six months to Francophone Games, 600 volunteers needed

Online applications open on Jan. 14

Tech consortium invests $25 million into four University of Victoria research projects

Investments come with goal of developing, implement technologies created by Canadians

Organizers seek input for long-awaited Oaklands community garden

Oswald Park Community Garden Design Workshop coming up on Jan. 19

Improperly transporting a pet in the back of the truck can cost up to $368

Police recommend keeping all animals inside the passenger portion of the vehicle

After cashing in on QB gambles, Chiefs and 49ers to clash in Super Bowl

KC beats Tennessee, San Francisco dispatches Green Bay to reach NFL title game

B.C. VIEWS: Few clouds on Horgan’s horizon

Horgan’s biggest challenge in the remainder of his term will be to keep the economy humming along

PHOTOS: Braves beat Storm in shootout at the Brindy

Saanich won 4-3 Saturday night in Campbell River

B.C. forest industry grasps for hope amid seven-month strike, shutdowns, changes

Some experts say this could be worse for forestry than the 2008 financial crisis

Northern B.C. RCMP investigating alleged sexual assault in downtown Smithers

One person was transported by ambulance to hospital following RCMP investigation at Sedaz

UBC, Iranian-Canadian community create memorial scholarship in honour of victims

The Jan. 8 crash killed 176 people, including 57 Canadians

Disrespectful that Horgan won’t meet during northern B.C. tour: hereditary chief

Na’moks said he was frustrated Horgan didn’t meet with the chiefs

Most Read