A Mi’kmaw leader on P.E.I. says the modifications that will be made to the Sir John A. Macdonald statue in Charlottetown are not about changing history, but about education.
Charlottetown city council had already voted last summer in favour of keeping the controversial statue at its location on Queen Street, and on Monday night voted to adopt five recommendations by Indigenous groups.
“It’s a historically accurate statue, we’re not about cancelling culture, we’re not about cancelling history, we’re about education,” said Chief Roddy Gould of the Abegweit Assembly of Councils.
“This is an opportunity to be educated and I think that it’s important that society learn the facts associated with history.”
The five recommendations are:
- Add another figure, such as an Indigenous child or elder.
- Fill in or seal off the empty space on the bench so it can’t be used for photo opportunities.
- Install signage so viewers understand “the devastating role that Sir John A. Macdonald played in the Indigenous history of Canada.”
- If the artist engaged is not Indigenous, a Mi’kmaw artist should be hired as a consultant.
- Complete the work as soon as reasonably possible.
Bradley Cooper of the Native Council of P.E.I. described the city’s decision as “a positive step in the right direction” but would have preferred the statue be removed.
“Being able to sit down next to him, to highlight this historical figure, to, in my mind, only focus in on the positives that he brought and not really address any of the negativity that he’s brought kind of does a disservice to Canada.”
Charlottetown Coun. Julie McCabe, one of eight who voted to adopt the recommendations, said it was the right decision.
“Will this settle it? I think reconciliation is going to be a journey. I think it’s certainly a step in the right direction and I think it’s a great start.”
The city said it paid $75,000 for the installation of the statue. Officials said it cost about $5,000 in repairs after it was targeted multiple times by vandals, the last being just a week and a half ago when red paint was splashed over the statue’s mouth.
The city said the original artist has agreed to the changes. But he told council he wants to do the work himself, under the guidance of a Mi’kmaw artist.
Some of the changes should be in place by this fall.
More from CBC’s P.E.I.