Sir John A. Macdonald no longer guards the doors of Victoria City Hall.
In a statement, Mayor Lisa Helps announced Aug. 8 that the statue of the former Canadian prime minister, who also served as Victoria’s MP, would be moved because of his role in establishing residential schools – conceived by Christian churches, to educate and convert Indigenous youth and integrate them into Euro-Canadian society.
The schools disrupted lives and communities, causing long-term problems among Indigenous peoples. Students were isolated, their culture disparaged. They were removed from their homes and parents, some separated from siblings. They were forbidden to speak their first language. Some were physically and sexually abused.
In total, 150,000 First Nation, Inuit, and Métis children attended residential schools. The last one closed in 1996. Since, former students pressed for recognition and restitution.
The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement was reached in 2007. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a formal apology in 2008.
The decision to remove the statue of Macdonald was made in June 2017 through the Victoria’s Witness Reconciliation Program and City Family. The statue was removed so that Indigenous people don’t have to encounter such a painful reminder of colonial violence, and, with its relocation – yet to be determined – to start a larger discussion.
There are other instances of injustice being honoured, and no one is suggesting to erase history.
But history evolves. And the original intent of the statue, to commemorate a man’s legacy, doesn’t fully reflect that.
We know better now. Let’s talk about that.
– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News