(Photo Courtesy of the Globe And Mail)
The British Columbia Capital of Victoria has made headlines, as City Council has voted to remove the statue of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald from in front of its City Hall. City Council voted in favour to remove the statue because of the history Sir MacDonald and the British Monarchy’s lack of compassion for the indigenous First Nations at the time, which led to numerous atrocities back during the formation of the country in 1867.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps was quoted as saying, “If we’re serious about reconciliation as a city, which we are, then part of our responsibility is to make sure that the public spaces in Victoria not only start to reflect less of a colonial legacy, but also start to have the signs and symbols and the presence of the Lekwungen people throughout the city. The other, more concrete piece is that the statue is literally right on the front steps of City Hall, kind of in an overbearing way. For the Indigenous family members who come here to gather, and the many other Indigenous people who come to City Hall for whatever reason, they continuously have to walk past what is a very poignant symbol of colonial violence, of the residential school system.”
Canada’s dark history has always been hidden by various forms of Government, about the abuse, violence, and at times murder of First Nations, which has caused political debate for decades. MacDonald was known to be ruthless towards the lifestyles and cultures of indigenous people, and the level of hate still rings through with many First Nations today. At one point, MacDonald referred to First Nations as ‘savages’. Back in 1883, MacDonald was quoted as saying “Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will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.” These practices continued through the 1960’s.
But not all are behind the concession of B.C.’s Capital City trying to go the way of the United States south, by eliminating history in today’s view. MacDonald has also been lauded for the formation of the colonies which led to the creation of a new nation, which is what many from the Sir John A. MacDonald Society proclaim. Under MacDonald, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island and Manitoba made the new nation truly coast to coast.
The debate now is what to do with the statue. Many, including council members, feel being in front of Victoria City Hall isn’t appropriate, but would like the statue placed elsewhere on display. Where, though, is up for debate, as to whether it will be in a park or museum. Others believe that with MacDonald’s dark history, and with the way society has advanced culturally, that their should be zero tolerance when it comes to promoting the negative history of Canada’s first Prime Minister. In Ontario last August, the Elementary Teachers Federation voted to remove MacDonald’s name from schools and facilities.