Sir John A. Macdonald statue set to be removed from Victoria City Hall on Saturday

The statue of Sir John A. Macdonald outside Victoria City Hall is expected to come down early Saturday.

The city isn’t saying what time it will be removed from its base, lifted onto a truck and transported it to a storage facility. Temporary fencing was placed around the statue on Friday.

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On Thursday night, councillors voted 7-1 to remove the statue of Canada’s first prime minister, which was installed in 1982.

Coun. Geoff Young was the lone dissenting vote citing a need for more consultation. Other councillors also raised concerns about a lack of consultation — they only learned about the removal plan when it appeared on a committee-of-the-whole agenda on Tuesday.

The decision to remove the statue was made by three councillors and First Nations representatives who met over the last year as part of a reconciliation process. They cited Macdonald’s involvement in creating the residential schools system, which forced First Nations children away from their homes and subjected them to abuse.

Macdonald was member of Parliament for Victoria from 1878 to 1882.

If the city is sincere about reconciliation efforts, the statue must be removed so that Indigenous people are not forced to encounter a painful reminder of colonial violence each time they enter city hall, said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. The Esquimalt Nation and Songhees nations agreed.

Young argued the community has a right to be part of the discussion. Others argued the statue, if moved, must be relocated so that history is not erased and is instead retold for educational purposes in the spirit of reconciliation.

“Reconciliation is about the broader community, about all of us,” said Coun. Pam Madoff.

John Dann, who created the bronze statue in 1981, said he is honoured if his sculpture can engender a discussion about the violence inflicted on First Nations people. “I am not sure that removing the sculpture is the best way to accomplish this,” he wrote in a letter to the mayor.

Macdonald was a proponent of the religious and cultural morality of European empire builders.

“These ideas are repugnant to us today, they offend us. We abhor the genocide, the spreading of smallpox, the theft, the racism, yet we are reluctant to acknowledge that the wealth we enjoy, which is deprived to the Native People, is directly proportional to the degree of theft and oppression they suffered,” wrote Dann.

He asked people to look at the statue, not as a specific person, but as an expression of common humanity. “Here we see a confidence, not untouched by vulnerability, arrogance not without humility, swagger not devoid of humour. We have here the strengths and flaws of Macdonald and of ourselves.”

People who are opposed to the statue’s removal are planning a protest at city hall Saturday. A Facebook page hosted by B.C. Proud and Aaron Gunn urged people to come out and witness the “disgraceful act.”

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

— With a file from Louise Dickson

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