John Dann (second from left) as he placed the his sculpture of John A. MacDonald in front of Victoria’s City Hall in 1981. File contributed

John Dann (second from left) as he placed the his sculpture of John A. MacDonald in front of Victoria’s City Hall in 1981. File contributed

Sculptor of John A. Macdonald statue speaks out

John Dann created the sculpture in 1981, and recently found out about the City’s plan to remove it

The creator of the controversial John A. Macdonald sculpture, slated for removal from Victoria’s City Hall on Saturday, is speaking up.

John Dann was commissioned to create the sculpture in 1981 by the John A. Macdonald Society of Vancouver. At the time of the commission, most Canadians didn’t know about residential schools, or the more sinister characteristics of Canada’s first Prime Minister, but Dann said that simply plucking the statue away from City Hall isn’t the right way to deal with the dark sides of history.

“I don’t like the idea of it being done so quickly, it seems there was a quick reaction,” he said. “It’s a very small step of reconciliation… I think over the last 100 years or so we’ve treated the natives horribly. We’ve stolen everything from them and we should somehow make amends and come together with them.”

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

The City announced they would remove the statue on Wednesday, and Dann found out about the removal from friends on Thursday. It prompted him to write a letter to Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, where he wrote that “if my sculpture can engender a discussion about violence inflicted on Native Peoples, then frankly, I am honoured. I am not sure that removing the sculpture is the best way to accomplish this… I would have preffered to have been able to be there to exchange ideas with those who wish it removed.”

Dann said that Macdonald was a complex character, with many flaws and many accomplishments, but at the end of the day his sculpture wasn’t meant to simply embody him.

“I’d like people to realize it’s not John A. Macdonald. It’s a piece of art, like a symphony surrounding John A. Macdonald, surrounding Canada, and surrounding how we got here,” he said “I’m offended by John we’re all offended, we don’t want to be like that… but I think the sculpture addresses a lot of issues; you see vulnerability. Do they think we’re picking off a scab? I don’t know.”

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

Dann said he didn’t want to stand in the way of the removal, but didn’t think it should be hidden either. He likened it to a boy stealing a paint brush and hiding it behind his back, and denying that it was there.

“Canada needs to address its past horrific treatment of natives, it should be forefront and it’s not. I know there’s a great deal of racism still across the country,” he said. “If we removed the sculpture, we’re not removing that attitude.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter
and Instagram

City of Victoria

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

Just Posted

Penelope the cat showed up safe and sound at her owner’s porch after an unusual trip through the news cycle in recent weeks. (Photo courtesy of Reuniting Owners with Animals Missing)
Penelope, cat and friend of the Victoria HarbourCats, returns home safe

The cat had an after an unusual trip through the news cycle in recent weeks

Stanley Fischer (right) died while in a Victoria police jail cell hours after he was arrested on Nov. 15, 1981. Forty years later, his family is questioning his cause of death. (Photo courtesy of Mark Fischer)
Family wants investigation into man’s 1981 death while in Victoria police custody

Stanley Fischer’s death was ruled a suicide after he was found hanging in his jail cell

The Compost Education Centre is hosting its annual spring plant sale on May 8 at 1216 North Park St. Physical distancing protocols will be in effect during the sale, which runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Black Press Media file photo)
This weekend: Tenth annual spring plant sale hosted by Victoria Compost Education Centre

The non-profit event Saturday, May 8 will feature numerous varieties of plants, live music

Saanich police detectives are investigating a reported sexual assault that occurred near Glanford Park on the evening of Dec. 29, 2020 and have shared an artist’s rendering of the individual. (Image via Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers)
Saanich police release sketch of suspect sought in December sexual assault

Anyone with information asked to contact detectives, Crime Stoppers

Work is progressing on the new student housing building at the University of Victoria. The building will be home to 398 students when complete in September 2022. (Photo courtesy of UVic)
VIDEO: Mass timber installation begins at UVic student housing project

Green technology plays key role in building that will be home to 398 University of Victoria students

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Black bear tranquillized, relocated after wandering around residential Ladysmith

A juvenile black bear was spotted near 2nd Avenue earlier Friday morning

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

At this Highway 3 check point, police officers will be asking for identification from drivers, documentation regarding the driver’s name and address, and the purpose for the driver’s travel. (RCMP)
No fines handed out at 1st COVID-19 roadblock as checks move across B.C.

Cpl. Chris Manseau says a total of 127 vehicles were stopped at a roadblock in the Manning Park area

A spectator looks on as the Olympic Caldron is relit in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, February 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Small majority of B.C. residents in favour of a Vancouver 2030 Olympic bid: survey

A new survey shows a split over the possibility of public money being spent to organize and host the winter games

Most Read