Could Macdonald statue go to legislature? Province keeping mum until city makes decision

The B.C. government will wait until Victoria council makes a decision on what to do with the Sir John A. Macdonald statue before considering whether it has a home at the legislature, a local MLA says.

The City of Victoria has not contacted the province about possibly taking the statue, which was removed from the steps of city hall in August.

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“I’m not aware of what mayor and council are deliberating on, so I’ll certainly take a look at that,” said Rob Fleming, MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake.

Councillors have directed staff to review records to see if the city can donate the statue to another government body.

Coun. Ben Isitt has raised the possibility of donating the statue to the province, noting that most of the feedback council received when it removed the statue was related to B.C.’s entry into Confederation.

“The council will presumably rank the options or communicate with the province somehow,” Fleming said. “We’ll wait for them to deliberate.”

Fleming, who is minister of education, would not say whether the legislature is the right home for the statue, which critics say is a painful reminder of Macdonald’s role in setting up the residential school system that took Indigenous children away from their families.

“I can’t say. [Macdonald] was not elected at the provincial level, he was the MP for Victoria at one time, the prime minister of Canada,” he said. “I think there’s been some discussion about [housing the statue at] the Royal B.C. Museum, I think there might be other areas.”

Fleming said if Victoria council is determined to move the statue somewhere and feature it in a way that can include the complex historical context, that could open the door to a discussion about reconciliation. I’ll let council do their work and consider the staff report that’s before them and wait for them to be in touch with us.”

Coun. Geoff Young said he wants to ensure there’s adequate public consultation before the city gets rid of the statue. Councillors agreed to allocate $10,000 to cover the cost of possible relocation.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government wrote to Mayor Lisa Helps in August, offering to take the statue and erect it on government property. The offer was rejected.

A lack of public consultation over the decision to remove the statue in August led to protests and a divisive debate. City council agreed to remove the statue in the interest of reconciliation with First Nations, acting on the recommendation of an appointed panel called the City Family, which included Helps, two councillors and Indigenous community members.

A sign erected in the statue’s place reads: “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.”

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