Debate sparked over pending removal of Sir John A. Macdonald statue outside Victoria City Hall

Victoria council's Committee of the Whole has voted 7- 1 in favour of removing a statue of Sir  John A. Macdonald from City Hall's entranceway. 

The decision was made by the city's advisory committee on reconciliation -- called the City Family --  which Mayor Lisa Helps heads. 

She revealed the decision in her campaign blog yesterday (wed)  saying Canada's first prime minister was responsible for enacting hurtful policies toward First Nations people -- and his statue was not welcome in front of city hall.  It is scheduled for removal this Saturday.

Speaking in favour of the motion -- Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe, who also sits on the City Family committee,  fought back tears:

" When I see the family members, and I hear them tell the committee, or tell us members that it's not about necessarily the history of Indigenous people, but the history of their families, their own personal families ... it hit home in a larger way than I had expected."

But several councillors expressed dismay at the way the news was broken to the public, so close to the statue's removal and without public input.  

Councillors Geoff Young and Pam Madoff says the tactic has angered a large portion of the community:

Young: "The problem for me is that only those members of the committee, I'm not even sure how many are from the city, most I guess from outside the city -- the Esquimalt and Songhees bands and others, they have had ample opportunity to work through these issues, to discuss them.  But our citizens have not."

Madoff: " Hearing the stories from our representatives on our "City Family" it's very clear that they have experienced an extraordinary journey over the period of a year.  And it would have been my hope that the next step of that journey would have been bringing along the broader community.  Because reconciliation is about the broader community. It's about all of us."

Only Geoff Young voted against the motion.  Council also passed an amendment that Helps take back council concerns to the "City Family" for their consideration.

Once the expected final approval comes at tonight's council meeting the statue will be hauled away sometime Saturday and put into storage until it can be decided what to do with it. A plaque explaining the removal will be put in its place.

Members of the City Family provided their input and approved the final wording for the plaque:

"In 2017, the City of Victoria began a journey of Truth and Reconciliation with the Lekwungen peoples, the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, on whose territories the city stands.

 The members of the City Family - part of the City's Witness Reconciliation Program - have determined that to show progress on the path of reconciliation the City should remove the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald from the front doors of City Hall, while the City, the Nations and the wider community grapple with Macdonald's complex history as both the first Prime Minister of Canada and a leader of violence against Indigenous Peoples.

 The statue is being stored safely in a city facility. We will keep the public informed as the Witness Reconciliation Program unfolds, and as we find a way to recontextualize Macdonald in an appropriate way.  For more information please visit www.victoria.ca/reconciliation"

Helps says after an appropriate amount of time has passed as determined by Elders from the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations a cleansing, blessing and healing ceremony will be held where the statue formerly stood. A piece of art representative of Lekwungen culture will likely go in the spot.

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