On the eve of the removal of Sir John A. Macdonald’s statue from Victoria City Hall, two opposing groups are preparing to rally for their respective cause.
A rally in support of removing the statue and a rally to save it are both scheduled to take place at noon Saturday.
The first event is hosted by the Indigenous Solidarity Working Group, while the second is hosted by Aaron Gunn, a spokesperson for the right-wing media organization BC Proud.
The event page for the BC Proud event reads, “Instead of learning from history, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, supported by her radical council, is tearing down a statue of our first Prime Minister, Sir. John A. MacDonald WITHOUT ANY public consultation.”
City council formally voted 7-1 in favour of removing the statue on Thursday after Mayor Lisa Helps announced plans to do so on Wednesday.
The decision to remove the statue was reached following a year-long process in which council created a City Family and met once a month with First Nations members.
“As part of this process, decision making with regards to reconciliation (other than budgetary allocations) are made by the City Family with the Songhees and Esquimalt Chief and Councils as witnesses,” Helps wrote in a letter published on her campaign site.
While MacDonald is largely known for being the first Prime Minister of Canada, his legacy is complicated by the fact that he was instrumental in implementing Canada’s residential school system in which thousands of Indigenous children lost their lives.
“Indigenous people do not need to walk past this painful reminder of colonial violence each time they enter the doors of their municipal government,” Helps wrote.
In a video posted to his Facebook page, Gunn asked, “Was [Macdonald] perfect? No, but no one is.”
“That progress we’ve made since is what makes Canada what it is today.”
On the posting for their event, the Indigenous Solidarity Working Group writes that “given MacDonald’s pivotal role in the cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples through the establishment of Canada’s residential schools, the removal of a statue in his honour from City Hall will not ‘erase’ history but is rather a means of reckoning with the injustices of the past.”
“In fact,” the group adds, “the removal of this statue is itself a historic event.”