Talks to begin in Victoria on new home for John A. Macdonald statue

A statue of Sir John A. Macdonald is seen outside of City Hall in Victoria, B.C., Tuesday, January 31, 2017. The City of Victoria and the Coast Salish First Nations living in and around Victoria are preparing to decide the future of what has become a divisive statue. The near life-sized statue of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister and also the member of Parliament for Victoria from 1878 to 1882, was removed from the steps of Victoria City Hall last August.


VICTORIA — The City of Victoria and local First Nations are mulling over what to do about the mothballed Sir John A. Macdonald statue.

The statue of Canada’s first prime minister and member of Parliament for Victoria from 1878 to 1882 was removed from the steps of Victoria City Hall last August.

Critics said Macdonald’s role at the head of a government that created the Indian Act and established the residential school system made the statue inappropriate.

Mayor Lisa Helps says Victoria will be holding talks in the coming months, focusing on what the city must learn about reconciliation and also considering the best place to relocate the statue.

A decision on a new home won’t be made until after talks conclude, and Helps says donating the statue in an option, although that could be complicated because it was originally a gift to Victoria.

Helps says politicians, Coast Salish First Nations in the area and the public have to consider how the statue could be placed with more context, ensuring history is expanded, not erased.

“What we heard very clearly from (the Songhees and Esquimalt) Nations is that a broader story of John A. Macdonald needs to be told,” she says.

“I think the imagining, at least from the nations, … is that when the statue is re-situated, there will be some other piece put in conversation with it in some way,” she says, adding the city still needs to hear the opinions of First Nations and other community members.

Helps says council has directed that the upcoming talks about the statute and reconciliation should be run through her office.

She says the format could including “people coming, sharing a few meals, sitting around tables, and having a conversation to start.”

A date for the talks is expected to be set after council approves Victoria’s strategic plan.


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