Ottawa

John A. Macdonald statue to remain at Kingston park despite calls for removal

In one of many conflicts around past historical figures and their present-day representations, people have been calling for the removal of the statue of Sir John. A. Macdonald in Kingston, Ont., but the city's mayor says that won't happen.

Weekend protest outlined list of reasons why statue should be taken down

A statue of Sir John A. Macdonald stands in City Park in Kingston, Ont. (Doug Kerr/Wikimedia Commons)

In one of many conflicts around past historical figures and their present-day representations, people have been calling for the removal of the statue of Sir John. A. Macdonald in Kingston, Ont., but the city's mayor says that won't happen.

Macdonald, who was born in Scotland but grew up in Kingston, has been criticized for his racist policies, including for introducing a Chinese head tax and creating Canada's residential school system. He was also the first prime minister of Canada. 

According to the Kingston Whig-Standard, a protest in the city over the weekend saw people throw eggs and tomatoes at the statue in City Park and burn an effigy of Macdonald outside City Hall.

"I think that the conversation around Macdonald's legacy is an important one to have," said Mayor Bryan Paterson, who added he supports peaceful protests, but draws the line at vandalism.

"A burning effigy, in my view...it just turned a bunch of people off."

In a statement sent to CBC, protest organizers listed several reasons the statue should be removed, including his treatment of Indigenous peoples.

Patterson said the city has no plans to remove the statue, but plans to take other actions by "adding to history rather than tak[ing] away from it," he told CBC Radio's All In A Day.

"Let let's be a model to the rest of the country about how we can engage in those comments, those conversations to say, 'Hey you know, there's some really bad things that happened in our history and quite frankly they were attitudes that were pervasive in that time. So let's talk about them,'" he said.

"Learn from history so that it's never repeated."

'Wildly inadequate'

In 2018, the city held a series of consultations about Macdonald and his legacy.

Patterson said council will be discussing suggestions on how to address the concerns around Macdonald next month, which include renaming other places after Indigenous historical figures and changing the plaque attached to the Macdonald statue to include "both the good and the bad," he said.

But the protesters criticized the latter suggestion.

"Adding context to a statue meant to glorify a genocidal, white supremacist, slavery-supporting John A. MacDonald is wildly inadequate," the statement read.

"We are inspired by the people south of us who are removing statues of Confederate slavers and genocidal colonists and hope to see Kingston do the right thing."

With files from CBC Radio's All In A Day

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