Kingston's Sir John A. Macdonald statue covered, as Indigenous groups call for it to be removed

The statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in Kingston’s City Park has been covered over with red fabric, as Indigenous groups call for the statue's removal and replacement.

Thursday night, the group, called the Revolution of the Heart, lit a sacred ceremonial fire and smudging, to remember the victims of the residential school system, and the 215 children found buried at a residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

Before the ceremony, about 30 members, consisting of Indigenous Peoples and allies, covered the statue of Canada’s first prime minister in a red cloak, completely shielding it from view.

Susan DeLisle, a resident who is French and Algonquin, says they decided to do this as a way to create a safe space.

"One. I don’t want to look at it," she says. "Two, we’re calling for it to come down, and three, so it doesn’t get vandalized."

Abenaki Wliwni says that is to mark the missing and murdered Indigenous women, and also that red is sacred to Indigenous culture.

"We want to show that colonialism is drenched in blood of Indigenous people," he says. "And Canada is formed on the blood of Indigenous people."

DeLisle says the discovery of 215 bodies did not leave her shocked. But the ceremony and the community gathering was a place to support one another.

"It’s not a surprise to us but it hurts like heck," she says. "To have this reminder. It’s like ripping off the scab of a wound."

The group says they want to see it replaced with a monument to residential school survivors and those who have been lost. Members say they’ll be sitting here day and night at the park, vowing not to leave until that happens.

DeLisle says the legacy Macdonald left behind needs to be addressed.

"Non-Indigenous people in the community have been honouring this man with toasts, and what not on his birthday," says DeLisle. "And it’s just really disrespectful to this legacy that this man really had."

"My son said if he’s up there he’s being idolized," says Zooipon Ikwe, a member of the  Algonquin and Ojibwe community. "And that's kind of true. We don’t need to promote symbols of pain, of hurt."

Mayor Bryan Paterson met with the leaders of the ceremony. He says a working group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous members are in talks about what to do with the statue. 

"When they are ready to put forward a recommendation to city council then we will consider whatever that recommendation is," he says. "We’ve been very clear that everything is on the table."

Paterson tells CTV News Ottawa he has no plans to remove the demonstrators from the park.

Wliwni says they will continue to push for change, and be at the park as long as needed.

"For our nation to heal," he says. "So that we can have mutual respect and we can bond as a community. Until that happens this is just going to be a wound that keeps getting exposed over and over and over again. We’re just never going to heal."