People shouted in protest and cheered in joy as the Sir John A. Macdonald statue was removed from Victoria’s City Hall on August 11, 2018. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

City of Victoria plans workshop to determine fate of Sir John A. Macdonald statue

Conversations will happen as part of a reconciliation dialogue series in May 2020

The City of Victoria will resume its discussions on the contentious Sir John A. Macdonald statue next spring as a part of an ongoing series on reconciliation.

In August 2018, the City of Victoria decided to remove the statue from City Hall’s front steps, providing only a few days’ notice to the general public.

The removal caused an outcry from people who felt that the discussions behind the decision were not transparent.

PHOTOS: Hundreds gather at Victoria City Hall after removal of Sir John A. Macdonald Statue

Much of the dialogue about the decision happened behind closed doors in conjunction with the City Family, a group comprised of representatives of the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations, Coun. Marianne Alto, Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

In a separate report coming forward to council, Helps said that the meetings were neither publicly broadcast nor recorded in an attempt to make meetings with this group less “Eurocentric.” She added that exact definitions on the role of the City Family were also not clearly outlined to the public.

ALSO READ: Victoria spent $30,000 to remove John A. Macdonald statue

“As a consequence, the initial council resolutions in relation to the City Family may have created the unintended appearance that it is just another board or advisory body established and appointed by the city council,” Helps wrote. ” This was a procedural mistake that has led to confusion about the nature and role of the City Family within the City and in the general public.”

She went on further to say that, as is outlined in the Community Charter, the City Family holds no formal power within the city’s infrastructure, but rather acts as an avenue to promote open discussion and understanding.

ALSO READ: City of Victoria considers donating Sir John A. Macdonald statue to province

“The City Family is not, and was never intended to be, an advisory body or a committee of council. It does not conduct City business and does not exercise any delegated authority on behalf of the City. “

With this in mind, Helps still hopes to continue dialogues with the City Family after some resolutions are adjusted. This includes a request to the province to consider amending the Community Charter to authorize local governments to have more power to engage in reconciliation dialogue, and to utilize Indigenous practices in the process when appropriate.

Regardless of the results of this possible request, however, Helps and the City Family are still slated to co-facilitate a series of six workshops in 2019/2020 to discuss reconciliation procedures.

ALSO READ: Macdonald statue removed after limited meetings spread over nine months

The first of these workshops will happen in September 2019, titled “Elders, knowledge and the land.” A workshop description says this will focus on “drawing on the guidance and knowledge of elders about the land on which we meet.”

In November, a workshop will focus on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).

In January 2020 the dialogue will centre around “Newcomers to Canada and Reconciliation,” while in March it will focus on a response to the Victoria Urban Reconciliation Dialogues event that will be held in February.

In May 2020 the City will hold a “Sir John A. Macdonald in Conversation” workshop to help decide how to move forward with decisions on the statue.

“This workshop will address the complex life and work of Sir John A. Macdonald,” the report reads. “Participants will be asked to consider the politics of and appropriate context for monuments to controversial historical figures, including the City of Victoria’s John A. Macdonald statue.”

Presently, the City has not announced any plans for the statue, which is currently being stored in an undisclosed location.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


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