Kingston city council votes to remove Sir John A. Macdonald statue from park
KINGSTON -- The Sir John A. Macdonald statue is expected to be moved out of City Park in Kingston, Ont. and into storage on Friday, after council voted to relocate it to the National Historic Site where Canada's first prime minister is buried.
The city of Kingston says there will be activity in the park starting today to mobilize equipment and secure the site in order to proceed with the removal of the Sir John A. Macdonald statue. The removal is expected to begin at 6 a.m. Friday.
After a late-night marathon meeting, council voted Wednesday night to remove the statue of Canada's first prime minister from the park and move it to Cataraqui Cemetery. The city says the statue will be initially stored while the city facilitates an engagement process between the Cataraqui Cemetery and the Indigenous communities prior to its installation within the cemetery.
Mayor Bryan Paterson said engagement with the public will continue throughout the process of moving the statue.
City council spent over four hours discussing the statue’s fate in a special meeting Wednesday. Council heard from testimony from about a dozen community members at the meeting, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, both for and against keeping the statue up.
The city of Kingston has close ties with Canada’s first prime minister, and considers it his adopted hometown.
Earlier this week, the city’s working group recommended to council that the statue be temporarily removed because of Macdonald’s role as an architect of the residential school system.
This comes following the recent discovery of the mass grave of 215 children at a former residential school in BC.
Natasha Stirrett is an Indigenous scholar with Queen’s University and told council her family has been affected by the legacy of residential schools, calling for the statue to be removed.
“It is so painful to see John A. and the glorification and celebration the pain he caused my family, I can’t even begin. We’d be here for hours for me to unpack that for you,” she said. “This is a gesture that we’re asking of you, that we’re requesting of you.”
Other speakers called on the statue to stay up with a focus on education.
Mark O’Farrell says the monument needed to stay up.
“I’m asking you not to tear down the statue of a Kingstonian, but to stand up for the greatest Kingstonian in history,” he says. “He was one the founders of this country, a country that is today revered as one of the best in the world to live. He was the first prime minister of Canada, and he built the railroad that binds the country from coast to coast. Does any Canadian have a CV that compares? No. No Canadian. And no Kingstonian.”
Mayor Paterson advocated for the statue to be immediately moved to the cemetery, saying it was the best path forward for both.
“The status quo is simply not an option,” he said “The status quo is leading to an increased polarization.”
The city will also pay for the removal and installation of the statue at its new location and help the cemetery maintain or remove the statue in the event of ongoing vandalism.
Council will receive a report on Aug. 10 with details on engagement on the statue's installation at the Cataraqui Cemetery, as well as next steps for new interpretive intentions for its previous location at City Park.