John A. Macdonald statue removed from Victoria City Hall

The monument honouring Canada's first prime minister was taken down, wrapped in foam and strapped to a flat-bed truck on Saturday morning to be placed in storage.

'We're here to say there's no honour in cultural genocide and it's time for the statue to go,' supporters say

A statue of Sir John A. Macdonald was wrapped in foam and strapped to a flat-bed truck on Saturday morning to be placed in storage. Victoria city council voted to remove the statue as a gesture of reconciliation earlier this week. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

A statue of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada's first prime minister, has been removed from the front steps of Victoria City Hall.

The monument was taken down, wrapped in foam and strapped to a flat-bed truck on Saturday morning to be placed in storage.

City council voted to remove the statue as a gesture of reconciliation earlier this week.

More than two dozen people gathered in the drizzling rain to watch as the statue was taken away — some cheering its removal and others lamenting it.

Supporters like Reuben Rose-Redwood were visibly emotional as the statue was wrapped up.

"Macdonald ... was one of the leading architects of the residential schools which instigated the cultural genocide of Indigenous people in this country," said Rose-Redwood.

"We're here to say there's no honour in cultural genocide and it's time for the statue to go."

People who supported the statue's removal cheered as city workers took the monument away. Reuben Rose-Redwood, left, said it was "time" the statue was taken down. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Protesters wrapped themselves in British Columbian and Canadian flags, singing the national anthem.

Matthew Breeden travelled from Vancouver to take part.

"It's part of our history I feel is being ripped right out and gutted down. I think that's just terrible," he said.

"They just pushed it right through — the public wasn't allowed to have a say."

People who were against the statue's removal gathered outside city hall, draped in flags and singing the national anthem, to protest as the monument came down. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

More than 100 people showed up at city hall for competing rallies hours after the statue was taken away.

City decision

City councillors voted to have the monument removed because of Macdonald's role as "a leader of violence against Indigenous peoples" after a year of discussion.

During his time as prime minister, Macdonald's government oversaw the Indian Act in its formative years and established the residential school system.

He also served as MP for Victoria from 1878 to 1882.

"We realized it's going to be many years of reconciliation," said Mayor Lisa Helps. 

"One of the things we heard very clearly from the Indigenous family members is that coming to city hall to do this work, and walking past John A. Macdonald every time, feels contradictory."

Katie Hooper, executive director of the Esquimalt Nation, applauded the decision.

"Removing this statue is an important step in the city's reconciliation journey, and is a symbol of progress towards and end to discrimination and oppression," Hooper wrote in a letter to Helps.

The council wasn't entirely in favour of the decision. Coun. Geoff Young said he thought the issue deserved more discussion, though he said he believes it's important to respect the feelings of those who said they were hurt by the monument.

A replacement plaque

A plaque to replace the statue has been installed explaining the monument's removal.

"We will keep the public informed as the Witness Reconciliation Program unfolds, and as we find a way to recontextualize Macdonald in an appropriate way," it reads.

The statue as it once stood in front of Victoria City Hall. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Victoria isn't the only Canadian government or institution rethinking honours for Macdonald. 

Last August, an elementary teachers' union in Ontario called for Macdonald's name to be removed from their schools.

Three months before that, the Canadian Historical Association voted to strip Macdonald's name from one of its top writing prizes.

With files from Megan Thomas, Justin McElroy The Canadian Press and CHEK News

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