VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – The City of Victoria is taking down a statue of John A. Macdonald in front of City Hall as part of a formal process of reconciliation.
Mayor Lisa Helps says the former Prime Minister was a “key architect” of the Residential School system.
An 1879 quote from Macdonald underlines Helps’ argument. He said “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 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 It has been strongly impressed upon myself, as head of the Department, that Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will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.”
Helps says the statue will be removed 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.”
The city started a formal process of reconciliation with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations in 2017. Following conversations with those Nations, who are the Lekwungen speaking people whose land Victoria is founded on, the city started the Witness Reconciliation Program.
“It is not until we began this Witness Reconciliation Program that I learned about the role that Canada’s first prime minister played in developing residential schools, the effects of which are well known to be still felt today both by school attendees and their children and grandchildren,” Helps says, adding she’s ashamed to say she has an undergraduate, master’s, and half-completed PhD in Canadian history.
The statue is set to be removed from the doors of city hall on Saturday. It will be stored in a safe place until the city can find an appropriate way to display it.
“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,” the statement reads.
A plaque will replace the John A. Macdonald statue, reading in part “The members of the City Family – part of the City’s Witness Reconciliation Program – have determined that to show progress on the path of reconciliation the City should remove the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald from the front doors of City Hall, while the City, the Nations and the wider community grapple with MacDonald’s complex history as both the first Prime Minister of Canada and a leader of violence against Indigenous Peoples.”