John A. Macdon­ald statue’s re­moval is over­due

Times Colonist - - Comment - J.O. DEN­NIE

At a re­cent city coun­cil meet­ing, I took the op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress Vic­to­ria’s mayor, coun­cil­lors and the pub­lic with a re­quest to re­move the statue of John A. Macdon­ald in front of city hall. This is a re­vised ver­sion of my state­ment:

Dur­ing a can­dle­light vigil for a mur­dered Ojib­way wo­man Bar­bara Kent­ner this sum­mer just right out­side here in Cen­ten­nial Square, I was ap­proached by a friend of mine. I could not un­der­stand at the time why he was look­ing to have the statue of Macdon­ald re­moved — big deal, I thought — it was just the first prime min­is­ter.

How­ever, a month later, af­ter read­ing Gary Ged­des’ Medicine Un­bun­dled and James Daschuk’s Clear­ing the Plains, my friend’s words haunted me and I un­der­stood their grav­ity. Here was the man who was the ar­chi­tect be­hind the in­sid­i­ous apartheid of the In­dian Act, a racial­ized sys­tem that even the Nazis and South Africans bor­rowed from for their own mod­els of geno­cide. Macdon­ald was also the mas­ter­mind be­hind the atroc­i­ties even­tu­ally com­mit­ted in a sys­tem of res­i­den­tial schools through­out this coun­try.

I am a white set­tler on stolen land. I am not here as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of any group. I am here merely as a mid­dle-aged white guy who has come to his senses on the per­ver­sity of main­tain­ing a statue that trig­gers com­mu­ni­ties still in heal­ing due to the di­a­bol­i­cal poli­cies of this man.

What makes mat­ters worse is that this statue is not in some shad­owy cor­ner of a park, but right in front of city hall. What mes­sage do you think this im­parts to those who have been marginal­ized and trau­ma­tized by th­ese poli­cies?

Since this year is the Year of Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion here in Vic­to­ria, since we have had a few years now to ab­sorb the rec­om­men­da­tions of the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion, since we have seen the grow­ing re­sis­tance to such dis­gust­ing mon­u­ments to the very worst of op­pres­sors, it is time to get rid of this statue. What bet­ter way than this for coun­cil to bravely un­der­take to say that white supremacy and racism have no place at the en­trance to city hall.

I am re­quest­ing coun­cil pass a mo­tion to re­move this statue from pub­lic view im­me­di­ately and re­place it, in time and in con­sul­ta­tion with a choice made to­gether with the Songhees and Esquimalt Na­tions.

As a com­mu­nity, we can no longer wait for months on end as one com­mit­tee or an­other bats this back and forth, lead­ing to plat­i­tudes and wa­tered-down com­pro­mises. Just get rid of it now and take your time to de­cide what it is re­placed with. This is an easy win for racial jus­tice. This is a no-brainer.

Re­mov­ing this statue im­me­di­ately would also be an im­por­tant pub­lic-safety mea­sure in­tended to pro­tect our com­mu­nity and not twist it into a vi­o­lent flash­point between white su­prem­a­cists and anti-fas­cists, as has hap­pened else­where.

Why do we de­mand the re­moval of this statue? Be­cause it is the de­cent thing to do, it is the hu­man thing to do. Would we erect a statute of Hitler in front of a sy­n­a­gogue?

Macdon­ald’s le­gacy is not as an hon­oured fa­ther of con­fed­er­a­tion, but one of shame, one of ha­tred and white supremacy, one of geno­cide, a slow, silent starv­ing mur­der through res­i­den­tial schools and In­dian hospi­tals and the de­monic tyranny of the In­dian Act.

It is also in­ter­est­ing that the statue is within a block of Chi­na­town. Macdon­ald didn’t spare his racist ide­ol­ogy ex­clu­sively for the “sav­ages” He be­lieved the Chi­nese would breed a “mon­grel” race here in Bri­tish Columbia and threaten the “Aryan” char­ac­ter of the new Do­min­ion.

This re­quest to re­move the statue is not “white­wash­ing his­tory.” His­tory has al­ready been white­washed, and af­ter you read books such as Arthur Manuel’s Un­set­tling Canada you re­al­ize that what we have been taught is the his­tory of con­quest and the suc­cess of the con­querors due to the spoils of geno­cide and the rap­ing of the land for its re­sources.

So no, there is no eras­ing of his­tory, there is merely a re­quest to coun­cil to be re­spect­ful of our on­go­ing and de­vel­op­ing un­der­stand­ing of his­tory and our at­tempts to de­col­o­nize and de­liver au­then­tic jus­tice for ev­ery­one who lives within Lek­wun­gen ter­ri­tory.

I be­seech coun­cil to do the hon­ourable thing and to re­move that statue from pub­lic sight, per­ma­nently, and with­out de­lay. This is true rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. This is how we hon­our na­tion to na­tion re­la­tion­ships. This how we move for­ward to­gether. J.O. Den­nie is a mem­ber of the So­cial En­vi­ron­men­tal Al­liance and In­dige­nous Sol­i­dar­ity Work­ing Group.

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