Sir John A. Macdonald statue quickly removed after Charlottetown council decision
'I don’t think right now that the statue is symbolic of the right things'
WARNING: This story contains distressing details and an image showing strong language.
On Monday evening, Charlottetown city council voted to remove a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada's first prime minister, from a downtown corner. By 7 a.m. Tuesday, it was gone.
Council voted unanimously to remove the statue just weeks after voting to accept recommendations from local First Nations people for changes to it.
The statue became the subject of controversy about a year ago because of Macdonald's involvement in setting up the residential school system. That controversy rose to a new level of horror last weekend, following the discovery of an estimated 215 children at an unmarked burial site on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
Coun. Greg Rivard brought forward the motion to remove the statue. He told CBC Radio's Island Morning that council needed to make a bold statement on behalf of the city.
"A statue is not history. By removing Sir John A., it's not removing any history," said Rivard.
"I see some comments on social media [saying] that you can't erase history, but I don't think removing a statue erases any history. A statue is symbolic of something, and I don't think right now that the statue is symbolic of the right things."
Over the past year, the Charlottetown statue has been splattered with paint and other substances several times and knocked over once.
On Monday, First Nations people and their supporters gathered at the statue for a vigil in honour of the children. Hours later, council voted to take it down and put it in storage.
Chief Junior Gould of the Abegweit First Nation said he was happy with council's decision.
He said the news about remains of 215 children being located in Kamloops could not be ignored.
"Now that it's out there, and it's not just a story passed on by somebody's grandparents — they once heard this about this — it's a fact."
Note: Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports. A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.