Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps has released an apology for not including more people in the decision to remove a statue of former prime minister John A. Macdonald from out front of Victoria’s City Hall.
“As mayor of Victoria, I apologize for not recognizing that the city family’s process might make some people feel excluded from such an important decision,” she said in a statement on her campaign website. “I didn’t recognize the great desire of Victoria residents to participate in reconciliation actions. The process going forward will enable this.”
Helps initially announced the statue would be removed on Aug. 8, and crews were on scene during the early morning hours of Aug. 11 to complete the job.
This caused immediate outrage both locally and nationally, and sparked a rally later in the day where hundreds gather either in opposition or support of the statue’s removal.
The decision was made in July after roughly a year of dialogue between the City Family and the Songhees and Esquimalt nations and was endorsed by council in August. The City Family was created in June 2017 to guide the City’s reconciliation actions and includes representatives of the two First Nations, Helps and councillors Marianne Alto and Charlayne Thornton-Joe.
“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. “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 added that moving forward, she has made a public commitment to bring forward the wishes of council and the public for a wider community conversation about reconciliation and the new location for the statue.
She said that as a part of this, she has already arranged a meeting with the John A. Macdonald society and the statue’s sculptor, John Dann.
“The statue in its original location was a barrier to Indigenous communities’ engagement with city hall,” Helps said. “Without relocating the statue, we were not able to invite First Nations to city hall in good faith and respect. Reconciliation needs to take place in the real world, not just in our hearts.”
To see the full statement, you can visit her campaign website at lisahelpsvictoria.ca