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

Just Posted

Central Saanich Police issue recommendations to homeowners after break-in

Incident happened over weekend in Tanner Ridge area

Defense says burden of proof not met in double murder case against Oak Bay father

Closing statements begin in trial for man accused of killing daughters Christmas 2017

Sealand was much more than killer whales, says ex-employee

Former Sealasd trainer revisits Sealand of the Pacific in talk

Residents say Monday’s fatal crash in Saanich wasn’t unexpected

Speed has long been a concern for neighbours in the Cumberland and Union roads area

Victoria Conservatory of Music bursary fund reaches $1M mark

The Eric and Shirley Charman Bursary Fund launched in 2017

WATCH: United Way #Drive4Five event launches campaign to raise $5 million

More than 80,000 lives changed last year by the United Way

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of September 17

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

Man who crushed Nanaimo RCMP cars with stolen truck gets more jail time

Majore Jackson, 34, sentenced to two more years in jail in provincial court in Nanaimo

B.C. dog breeder banned again after 46 dogs seized

The SPCA seized the animals from Terry Baker, 66, in February 2018

Surrey mom allegedly paid $400,000 for son in U.S. college bribery scam

Xiaoning Sui, 48, was arrested in Spain on Monday night

Three dogs found shot dead in Prince George ditch

The three adult dogs appeared to be well cared for before being found with gunshot wounds, BC SPCA says

B.C. party bus company to be monitored after 40 intoxicated teens found onboard

Police received tip teens and young adults were drinking on party buses and limousines in Surrey

Rick Mercer calls out Conservative candidate in B.C. for fake meme

‘Not true. All fake. Please Stop,’ tweeted Rick Mercer in response

Bear killed in Kimberley after chasing girl, wreaking havoc on town

This particular brown-coloured bear has been the subject of many calls this summer; very food habituated, CO says

Most Read