Timeline: The history of the controversial Prime Ministers Path in Wilmot Township
Originally meant to honour 150 years of confederation, the Prime Ministers Path project in Wilmot Township has been splashed with controversy for nearly a decade.
Monday night, council is set to vote on a recommendation from the First Peoples Group that says the project should be scrapped altogether.
The group's report calls for the remaining four statues to be removed and for council to discontinue any future expansion.
Here is a timeline of the controversial Prime Ministers Path's history.
In 2013, a group of private citizens raised money in hopes of seeing 22 former Prime Ministers moulded in bronze stand together somewhere in Waterloo Region.
Kitchener's Victoria Park was the first prospective home, but city council rejected the notion after hearing strong opposition.
Wilfrid Laurier University's Waterloo Campus offers to host the statues. Mere months later, the university backtracked and removed the Sir John A. MacDonald statue after a petition highlighting his role in forming residential schools gained traction.
"Erecting bronze statues of people essentially celebrates them, rather than trying to provoke dialogue or anything else," said Laurier professor Jonathan Finn, who started the petition. "So this seemed to be just a pure celebration of Prime Ministers, which to me seems 20 to 30 years out of date."
Wilmot Council unanimously approved the installation of what would eventually be 22 statues in front of Castle Kilbride in Baden, calling it the Prime Ministers Path.
The decision was made without public consultation. Mayor Les Armstrong said the public wasn't asked because the township wasn't paying for anything, simply offering space.
At the time, the project coordinator said the life-size figures were always meant to highlight both the positive and negative history.
"We want to look at not just our Prime Ministers, but the successes and failures of our country and how it influences all of us looking towards the future," Jim Rodger, then co-ordinator of the Prime Ministers Pathway Project, said in 2016.
That year, the first statue, of Sir John A. MacDonald, was installed.
Three more statues were installed in 2017. They were of Sir Robert Borden, William L. Mackenzie King and Lester B. Pearson.
A statue of Kim Campbell was installed in the Prime Ministers Path.
In the spring, the Sir John A. MacDonald statue was covered in red paint and accompanied by summer sit-ins.
In July of 2020, council voted to undertake a pubic engagement process on the project. First Peoples Group was retained to design and lead the engagement strategy.
By the fall, council voted to remove the Sir John A. MacDonald statue and place it in storage.
Four additional statues were slated to be installed in 2020, including John Abbott, John Thompson, Mackenzie Bowell and Charles Tupper, but were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They were postponed again as a result of a review of the project.
First Peoples Group complied a report following the public consultation process.
"Based on what we have heard, First Peoples Group advises the Township of Wilmot Council to consider immediately removing existing statues related to the Prime Ministers Path and to discontinue any future expansion or investment in the Prime Ministers Path as it exists today," reads the group's recommendation.