John Dann (second from left) as he placed the his sculpture of John A. MacDonald in front of Victoria’s City Hall in 1981. File contributed

Sculptor of John A. Macdonald statue speaks out

John Dann created the sculpture in 1981, and recently found out about the City’s plan to remove it

The creator of the controversial John A. Macdonald sculpture, slated for removal from Victoria’s City Hall on Saturday, is speaking up.

John Dann was commissioned to create the sculpture in 1981 by the John A. Macdonald Society of Vancouver. At the time of the commission, most Canadians didn’t know about residential schools, or the more sinister characteristics of Canada’s first Prime Minister, but Dann said that simply plucking the statue away from City Hall isn’t the right way to deal with the dark sides of history.

“I don’t like the idea of it being done so quickly, it seems there was a quick reaction,” he said. “It’s a very small step of reconciliation… I think over the last 100 years or so we’ve treated the natives horribly. We’ve stolen everything from them and we should somehow make amends and come together with them.”

RELATED: Victoria to remove Sir John A. Macdonald statue from City Hall

The City announced they would remove the statue on Wednesday, and Dann found out about the removal from friends on Thursday. It prompted him to write a letter to Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, where he wrote that “if my sculpture can engender a discussion about violence inflicted on Native Peoples, then frankly, I am honoured. I am not sure that removing the sculpture is the best way to accomplish this… I would have preffered to have been able to be there to exchange ideas with those who wish it removed.”

Dann said that Macdonald was a complex character, with many flaws and many accomplishments, but at the end of the day his sculpture wasn’t meant to simply embody him.

“I’d like people to realize it’s not John A. Macdonald. It’s a piece of art, like a symphony surrounding John A. Macdonald, surrounding Canada, and surrounding how we got here,” he said “I’m offended by John we’re all offended, we don’t want to be like that… but I think the sculpture addresses a lot of issues; you see vulnerability. Do they think we’re picking off a scab? I don’t know.”

LETTER: Sir John A. Macdonald’s role in residential schools

Dann said he didn’t want to stand in the way of the removal, but didn’t think it should be hidden either. He likened it to a boy stealing a paint brush and hiding it behind his back, and denying that it was there.

“Canada needs to address its past horrific treatment of natives, it should be forefront and it’s not. I know there’s a great deal of racism still across the country,” he said. “If we removed the sculpture, we’re not removing that attitude.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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