Removing Sir John A. Macdonald statue not the answer, says Native Council
'If we allow it to stay there, we can address it'
Legions of tourists and Islanders alike have had their picture taken with Sir John A. Macdonald on his bench at the corner of Victoria Row and Queen Street over the years.
The City of Charlottetown says it has no plans to remove the statue, nor have they had any complaints, after the city of Victoria, B.C. decided to take down their Macdonald statue.
Jonathan Hamel, intergovernmental affairs coordinator for the Native Council of P.E.I., says Macdonald's legacy is complex and that there are better ways to achieve reconciliation.
"A lot of the policies his government formed when Canada became a country [are] having a negative impact upon Canada's Indigenous population today," Hamel said.
'We can say, "this was not right"'
"We also realize that being a founding father of Canada and the fact that the idea of Canada was actually born here in Charlottetown, those are important things to remember and celebrate as well."
Hamel understands why some people want statues of Macdonald to be taken down, but said leaving them up still allows for conversations about Aboriginal history and action to ensure a better future.
"By removing it, we think that's diminishing, sometimes, what has happened. But if we allow it to stay there, we can address it. We can say, 'This was not right, we need to come together."
Reconciliation a 'very complex idea'
It's a topic that requires a collaborative discussion and education on numerous fronts, Hamel said.
"Reconciliation is a very complex idea. How do we bring that about? It's not just saying we'll ... remove the reminders of our colonial past and that way we'll fix the problem. No, it has to be multi-faceted."
Housing and health-care issues are among the challenges Indigenous people face today, he said.
'We can make things different for our children'
The Native Council represents Aboriginal people living off-reserve, and Hamel said he'd like to see their perspective included in the conversation alongside status Indians, Inuit and Métis people.
Hamel said when people see Macdonald on his bench, they should "remember that yes, under his leadership, we did form a country here, but also remind ourselves that some of his policies were not that good, did not bring about the country we probably hoped it would."
"Remind ourselves that together, now, today, we can make a change moving forward. We can make things different for our children today."
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With files from Brian Higgins