Sir John Alexander Macdonald: Canada’s first prime minister post-Confederation, widely regarded as the country’s greatest leader, oppressor of indigenous people, and a man who will soon no longer have a statue on the front steps of Victoria City Hall.
Victoria City Council is expected to approve a recommendation to have Macdonald’s statue removed on account of him having been “a leader of violence against Indigenous peoples.”
Under Macdonald, the Canadian parliament passed the controversial Indian Act in 1876, which lead to the regressive reserve system, and implemented a system of residential schools.
In speaking about indigenous people, Macdonald once remarked, “Indian children should be withdrawn as much as is possible from parental influence, lest they acquire their habits…and should be placed where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men.”
The decision has been discussed and deliberated for a year, and while not everyone on city council approves of the measure, the statue is slated for removal on August 11.
“One of the things we heard very clearly from the Indigenous family members is that coming to city hall to do this work, and walking past John A. Macdonald every time, feels contradictory,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “And if the city is serious about reconciliation, which I would say we are, then one important thing we do is temporarily remove the [statue] from the front steps of city hall.”
Helps says the statue with be replaced by a plaque that will “recontextualize” Macdonald’s legacy.
“We’re in an era of reconciliation, and no one’s erasing anything, but we have to understand the complexity of history, and that’s what this process is about,” she said.