WARNING: There are worrying details in this story.
Charlottetown City Council unanimously voted on Monday to permanently remove the Sir John A. Macdonald statue from Victoria Row in downtown Prince Edward Island’s capital.
The resolution came in the light of the discovery that local indigenous leaders in BC believe these are the remains of 215 children on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops.
The statue of the first Canadian Prime Minister in downtown Charlottetown, which was defaced several times last year, is put into storage and its future decided later.
His role in building schools has made him a target of anger over their legacy of abuse, cultural alienation, and sometimes death.
Macdonald’s government introduced boarding schools in 1883 to remove indigenous children from their families and prevent them from growing up among “savages,” as Macdonald said in the House of Commons.
For decades before a ground penetrating radar system was used to track down the remains of children at the Kamloops site, Indigenous leaders said thousands of children were never heard again after leaving home to attend schools.
Survivors have spoken of homes where malnutrition and serious illness were common, and friends sometimes disappeared without explanation.
Earlier this month, Charlottetown City Council accepted five recommendations from the island’s First Nations communities on changes to be made to the statue. These include the addition of an indigenous figure on the bench, occupied by Sir John A. Macdonald’s character, and new signs outlining the dark history of boarding schools in Canada.
The decision of the Charlottetown city council on Monday repealed this May 10th resolution and completely removed the statue from the public eye in the city, where the idea of the union that Canada was to become was promoted by Macdonald and other early politicians.
“Nothing but the permanent removal of the statue should be considered acceptable, so I am pleased that the council confirms this in today’s vote, and I apologize to those injured in the process,” Councilor Greg Rivard said shortly thereafter in a press release the vote Monday evening.
“I’m sorry to say that it took such a terrible disclosure to change our minds,” said Councilor Julie McCabe, who introduced the new resolution. “I know it took longer than many think, and I know some will say it came too late, but I hope that as a city and as a province we will come together and promote real reconciliation with our indigenous communities can. “
There is support for anyone affected by their boarding school experience triggered by the latest reports. A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line was set up to support former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis mediation services by calling the national 24 hour emergency number: 1-866-925-4419.