Sir John A. Macdonald statue defaced overnight

A bronze statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in downtown Charlottetown was doused with red paint some time overnight Thursday.

City staff cleaning up controversial bench

Should he stay or should he go?

2 years ago
Duration 3:17
P.E.I. Premier Dennis King and Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown on controversial Sir John A. Macdonald statue

A controversial statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in downtown Charlottetown was defaced with a large amount of red paint overnight Thursday. 

Some have recently called on the city to remove the statue, because Macdonald, who was Canada's first prime minister, is widely recognized as the architect of residential schools, which separated Indigenous children from their parents and led to abuse and problems that have festered for more than a century.

Premier Dennis King, when asked about the statue by reporters Friday morning outside the legislature, said he hasn't really formulated an opinion about whether the statue should be removed, but he is willing to discuss it. 

"This is a difficult issue all across the country and all across the world, and I'm certainly interested in having a thorough discussion as to how we can best, as Prince Edward Island, represent the history of who we are, of how we've gotten to where we are, and not trying to sugar-coat and pick just parts of it," King said. 

"I think how we look and pave our way going forward requires us to have a full and honest debate, and not to be afraid about the not-so-glorious parts of our history." 

Mayor Philip Brown told CBC News he was "very disappointed" but not surprised to see what happened to the statue. 

He said he has received a flood of emails in recent days on the topic of whether the city should remove the statue. Most, he said, advocate keeping the statue so we "can learn from our mistakes," he said. 

The statue could be modified with a description such as a plaque, Indigenous leader Jenene Wooldridge with L'nuey has suggested. L'nuey is an initiative focused on protecting, preserving and implementing the constitutionally-entrenched rights of the Mi'kmaq of P.E.I.

"John A. Macdonald almost gets off easier if we remove the statue and he is forgotten about, as opposed to an equally impactful plaque or sign along with his image explaining that he was a racist and the horrific impacts he had on Indigenous people," she wrote in an email to CBC earlier this week.

Jenene Wooldridge says there needs to be more statues that are reflective of Indigenous history in Canada. (Buffie Boily)

"Instead of that empty place on the bench for tourists to take smiling pictures, why don't we have signage that tells his true story? Without truth we don't get to reconciliation."

Wooldridge said there needs to be more statues that are reflective of Indigenous history in Canada.

"We have to learn how to work together — collaborate, co-operate," Brown said.  He called on residents to be "reasonable" and to have a discussion about the statue and Macdonald's legacy. 

The city is planning a public meeting including this topic next Thursday, after deferring discussion on the statue earlier this week. 

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With files from Julien Lecacheur