The ongoing saga of Sir John A. statue

On 16 June 2020, Charlottetown City council held a special closed meeting to address the John A. bench statue at the entrance to Richmond Street (aka Victoria Row) after receiving several e-mails calling for it to be removed.

During the night of 17 June 2020, the statue was defaced with a large amount of red paint.

On 25 June 2020, at a Special Meeting of Council, Mayor Brown introduces the “piece of art” topic (start at 23:20 of video-recording) and a discussion ensues on what to do to address the issue.

CBC reported: “Charlottetown city council is keeping a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald on public display, and will open talks with P.E.I.’s Indigenous community about how best to present Canada’s contentious history of its dealings with Indigenous people.”

On 7 September 2020, the bench the statue sits on was knocked over and dragged.

On 20 January 2021, the Economic Development, Tourism & Event Management Committee discussed the statue (22:45 to 52:45 of video-recording), with Committee Chair Julie McCabe providing a good summary of events to date.

On 28 January 2021, in response to the Committee meeting, the Epekwitk Assembly of Councils address a letter to Mayor Brown in which they reiterated the five suggestions they had made to address the statue situation in keeping with Reconciliation objectives:

  1. Revising the art installation with the addition of another figure, such as an Indigenous child or elder, to offset the existing one and therefore visibly represent his impact on Canada’s Indigenous peoples.
  2. Fill in or seal off the empty space on the bench to remove any opportunity for the bench to be used for photo opportunities. 
  3. Install signage or sufficiently large plaquing to ensure that those viewing the installation can clearly read and understand the devastating role that Sir John A. MacDonald played in the Indigenous history of Canada. 
  4. If the artist engaged is not Indigenous, a Mi’kmaq artist should be contracted to serve as a consultant and provide guidance to the artist. 
  5. The completion date for this work should be as soon as reasonably possible with elements in place by spring at the latest.
  6. PLUS: We had hoped that while work was under way, signage would have been immediately placed on the bench to a) remove the photo opportunity and b) advise that a project is underway to amend the installation to tell the true and complete history of Sir John A. MacDonald and his role in the policies and laws which continue to have devastating impacts on the Indigenous Peoples of Canada. 

Fast-forward to 21 April 2021: In this Economic Development, Tourism & Event Management Committee meeting, Mayor Philip Brown (video-recording 4:35 to 9:30) focussed on the statue conundrum — reminding those present that it is a $75,000 public piece of art — in view of the resolution passed 25 June 2020.

The resolution stated:
That City Council endorse the statue of Sir John A. MacDonald [sic] remain in place,
And further that the City bring the appropriate stakeholders together to determine best steps forward to recognize that the full story be told, and in particular, involve the Native Council, MCPEI and L’nuey to ensure direct input to bring resolve.

The Mayor and Coun. MacLeod had a heated exchange, with the Mayor concerned that this ongoing controversy is tarnishing the city’s image, and the 25 June 2020 resolution failed to make a recommendation to City Council.

Economic Development, Tourism & Event Management Committee meeting (21 April 2021)

And so, on 26 April 2021, at a Special Meeting of Council, Mayor Brown proposed an amendment to the June 2020 resolution. Some confusion ensues… Some councillors wonder why the statue is being discussed … again … when it’s not even on the agenda.

On 30 April 2021, The Guardian reported that red paint had been smeared on the face of statue (published in May 1 paper edition).

Stay tuned for a special meeting of the Economic Development, Tourism & Event Management Committee starting at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, 5 May 2021. The meeting will be streamed live. The video recording will be available on the City’s YouTube channel.

Posted: 4 May 2021, 6:45 p.m. ⎢ Updated: 5 May 2021, 10:40 a.m.

Author: New Charlottetown Project

Barbara Dylla has lived in Charlottetown since 2017. The aim of this blog is to inspire and encourage Charlottetowners to be more aware of municipal affairs, to participate as engaged citizens, to support an issue close to their heart, so that together we create a sense of the larger community we live in. And, along the way, become a united community passionate about making Charlottetown the best it can be.

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