Saskatchewan

'Just take it down': Opponents to Regina John A. Macdonald statue say they feel unheard by city

Activists say their call to remove a controversial John A. Macdonald statue from Victoria Park isn’t being heard by the City of Regina.

City says it is considering multiple options to address statue

Kerry Bellegarde-Opoonechaw and Eveningstar Andreas held a small protest outside of city hall on Monday in hopes of getting the city to respond to their letter and petition calling for the removal of the John A. Macdonald statue from Victoria Park. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

Activists say their call to remove a controversial John A. Macdonald statue from Victoria Park isn't being heard by the City of Regina.

Their petition is asking the city to take down the statue of Canada's first prime minister — the only one of its kind still standing in a major Western Canadian city. 

Three years ago, people petitioned for its removal due Macdonald's treatment of Indigenous people, including the creation of residential schools. 

Now, as statues of other problematic figures are being pushed down around the world, that call is being renewed. 

A hurtful reminder

Eveningstar Andreas said the statue should be replaced with something positive.

"We don't want to erase our history, we just want it relocated to the legislative building or to a museum," said Andreas.

"People are hurting over that statue and what it represents. We've got to get rid of that hate. We've got to heal."

Andreas said she both emailed and personally handed the city a letter asking for a meeting to discuss the statue. 

She said passing the statue makes her feel sick to her stomach, and taking it down would re-instill her Regina pride. 

Andreas has yet to hear back from the city, she said. That motivated a small protest outside of city hall on Monday, with a march to the statue at the park. 

Some believe the statue of John A. Macdonald in Regina's Victoria Park should be removed. (Matt Howard/CBC)

"We feel like we're being ignored," Andreas said. "It's simple. Just take it down."

On Monday afternoon, Kerry Bellegarde-Opoonechaw said she hoped to hear back from the city by the end of the day. 

She said some people want to forcibly remove it themselves, as has been done with statues in other cities. Bellegarde-Opoonechaw said they would rather come to an agreement with the city, but are discouraged since their last petition didn't lead to action. 

"They acknowledged it but just kind of shuffled it away," said Bellegarde-Opoonechaw. "Now that we are in this time and age, there are a lot of people who are just doing it themselves." 

Bellegarde-Opoonechaw said she is asking the entire country to back them in their petition. She is a descendant of Iron Body, one of the eight warriors hung following the North-West Rebellion. Macdonald signed off on the order for the largest mass hanging in Canadian history. 

"He's a murderer," Bellegarde-Opoonechaw said. 

City says pandemic put statue talks on hold

The City of Regina said it "has heard Indigenous community members" and is reviewing the statue. According to a written statement, discussions with Indigenous Elders and knowledge keepers were initiated early this year but were paused due to the pandemic.

The options being considered are counter-monuments or other response pieces, reinterpretation in order to tell a more complete story, replacement of the article and removal.

"Through thoughtful and sensitive engagement the process of response to harmful legacies can be an opportunity to increase understanding and visibility of Regina's diverse histories," said Mayor Michael Fougere in the statement. 

Andreas said the statue should be replaced with a medicine wheel with the four colours to bring pride back to the space.

'People are hurting over that statue and what it represents,' says Andreas. (CBC News/Alex Soloducha)

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