EDITORIAL: Statue’s removal stokes divisions

Removal of John A. Macdonald statue serves as political wedge

And amidst the dew of a freshly arisen dawn, it was gone.

The statue of John A. Macdonald was removed from the steps of Victoria’s City Hall at 7 a.m. Saturday, culminating four days of divisive debate since the city’s Mayor Lisa Helps announced it on her campaign website.

Helps reasoning was to remove the statue so that “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.”

There is no doubt that Macdonald’s status as the founder of Canada’s residential school system and the blatantly racist statements he made at the time are a painful reminder of this country’s original sin.

But it wasn’t for his role in the birth of the residential school system Macdonald was being commemorated, but for the founding of a nation.

“Show me a man in 1860 who hasn’t said something or done something that is considered not politically correct to modern standards,” said one of the protesters Saturday morning. “What, are we going to tear down statues of everyone born before 1900?”

“The statue is celebrating and glorifying a particular historical figure who was one of the leading architects of cultural genocide,” said one of the supporters.

It wasn’t the decision itself that struck a nerve with so many in the community, it was the way in which it was carried out.

It was announced on a campaign website, signalling the unofficial start of the municipal campaign, one where a cultural wedge will be used to divide the electorate. It was a political stunt of almost Trumpian proportions, in its execution if diametrically opposed in its ideology.

Most around the council table were stunned by the mayor’s announcement, and a new location for the statue has yet to be decided upon. The lack of preparation and disdain for the advice of colleagues seems torn straight from the Trump playbook.

Bringing council on stream before the decision was announced, and having a plan in place for the aftermath would have avoided much of the divisive sentiment that has been stoked by the issue. But then, it seems that was always part of the plan.

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