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 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 it’s 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

Just Posted

Horses from Victoria Carriage Tours involved in second incident in three months

Witnesses: Horses veered into a parked vehicle, smashing windows, climbing onto roof with front hooves

Vehicle stolen in Oak Bay carjacking found

Oldsmobile Alero found Monday in restricted parking zone in Victoria

Stolen Search and Rescue dog harness replaced by donation

Moxxii’s specialized harness was stolen at the Pet-A-Palooza festival

Seaplane flights cancelled between Victoria and Vancouver due to smoke

Harbour Air has grounded flights travelling through the Georgia Strait

First stores open in Victoria’s expanded Mayfair shopping centre

Construction project will add about 100,000 square feet of retail space and 400 parking stalls

PHOTOS: Puppy love makes a splash at St. Ann’s Academy

Puppies stampede, dive and do yoga at Victoria’s largest outdoor pet festival

Vehicle fire on the Coquihalla

Heavy congestion in north bound lanes

Prime minister greeted by B.C. premier as cabinet retreat begins

PM Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan meet in advance of federal cabinet meetings in Nanaimo

Are your kids anxious about going back to school?

BC Children’s Hospital offers tips to help your children be mindful and reduce stress

New trial ordered for James Oler in B.C. child bride case

Meanwhile, appeal court dismisses Emily Blackmore’s appeal of guilty verdict

This trash heap in Vancouver could be yours for $3.9 million

Sitting atop 6,000 square feet, the home was built in 1912, later destroyed by fire

Team Canada’s next game postponed at Little League World Series

They’re back in action on Wednesday against Peurto Rico

Ex-Trump lawyer Cohen pleads guilty in hush-money scheme

Said he and Trump arranged payment to porn star Stormy Daniels and a former Playboy model to influence the election

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Aug. 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Most Read