Bob Zimmer: Sir John A. Macdonald's legacy must stand, warts and all

Statue of Canada's first Prime Minister John A. Macdonald removed in front of Victoria City Hall Saturday. The city says it was done to create an inclusive space in the spirit of reconciliation

Helps and several Victoria councillors began discussions previous year to remove the statue in light of Macdonald's role in the creation of the residential school system that displaced thousands of Indigenous youth.

To absolutely no one's surprise, the offer was rejected by Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

Ontario Tourism Minister Sylvia Jones said Monday the province would be happy to have the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald, but Victoria has no plans to sell it or give it away.

However, the city of Victoria has already said no and will be leaving it in storage.

Jones went on to say that Macdonald's record "is a cause for much discussion" and encouraged Ontarians to visit statues to learn more about Canadian history.

"It was a gift to the city", Helps wrote to Jones. To remove this statue is, in my opinion, an attempt to erase or revise history.

The city removed the statue following discussions with two local First Nations, the Songhees and Esquimalt, which argued the statue has become a painful reminder of colonialism, largely because of Macdonald's role in the residential school system. "We are storing it carefully and in the meantime, we will have a continued dialogue with the nations and the community as to the best place, way and context to place the statue that balances commemoration with reconciliation".

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"If we had done engagement with the larger community, the question would have been, 'Do we keep the statue or do we remove the statue?' and that's not the question we need to ask as a community".

"That progress we've made since is what makes Canada what it is today".

"I guess it was to be expected", she said.

The absence of a sculpture bearing Macdonald's likeness standing outside its city hall does not change the fact he was Canada's first prime minister, who helped to build a transcontinental railroad in an effort to string together a bunch of former British colonies into a great Confederation.

As part of a reconciliation process, a group of councillors and First Nations talked about the pain and insult some Indigenous people feel having to pass the statue on the way into City Hall.

On the posting for their event, the Indigenous Solidarity Working Group writes that "given MacDonald's pivotal role in the cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples through the establishment of Canada's residential schools, the removal of a statue in his honour from City Hall will not "erase" history but is rather a means of reckoning with the injustices of the past".

A plaque placed at the statue's former home, explaining the monument's removal, has since been vandalized.

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