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

Young cyclist struck near Galloping Goose Trail

Minor injuries reported by police

New Coast Guard ship crashes into Ogden Point breakwater

‘It is fairly unprecedented that it would happen’

The shores will not rock in 2019

Atomique Productions announce Rock the Shores festival will not return in 2019, future is uncertain

Video shows logging operation on disputed Saturna Island land

Tsawout First Nation members opposed to logging on reserve land

Family still searching for missing Langford man two weeks after disappearance

Family hopeful he is alive, offering $10,000 reward

VIDEO: Keeping the hope alive, 28 years later

Annual Michael Dunahee Keep the Hope Alive run raised money for Child Find B.C.

Fundraising campaign launched for man caught in SilverStar avalanche

In only two days, the GoFundMe surpassed its $15,000 goal

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says future assembly deliberations won’t be closed to public

Reversal comes after Saanich Coun. Judy Brownoff raised concerns

Terror at sea: Helicopter rescues frightened cruise passengers in Norway

The Viking Sky cruise ship was carrying 1,300 passengers and crew when it experienced engine trouble

Search and rescue team helicopters injured climber from B.C. provincial park

A 30-year-old woman suffered a suspected lower-limb fracture in Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park

DOJ: Trump campaign did not co-ordinate with Russia in 2016

Attorney General William Barr said special counsel “does not exonerate” Trump of obstructing justice

Trudeau in Vancouver to support Tamara Taggart at Liberal nomination event

The former broadcaster is seeking the nomination for the Vancouver Kingsway riding

Most Read