John A. Macdonald statue’s removal is overdue
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.