On Thursday, a group of people gathered in Kingston — the hometown of Canada’s first prime minister Sir. John A. Macdonald — to celebrate World Indigenous Peoples Day.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the legacy of Canada’s first prime minister was under fire in the city of Victoria, B.C., for his involvement in residential schools.
On Thursday, Victoria’s city council announced plans to remove a statue of Macdonald in front of city hall by Aug. 11.
GALLERY: Sir John A. statue will be removed from Victoria City Hall
It’s a story familiar to Kingston audiences, who may remember a Kingston pub, now named The Public House, that recently changed its name from Sir John A. Macdonald’s in early 2018.
Many in Kingston and across Canada have negative feelings about these schools, which removed Indigenous children from their homes and placed them in institutions where they were often subject to physical, mental and sexual abuse.
The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario also made a big push in 2017, asking that Macdonald’s name be removed from elementary schools, one of which was built in Kingston in 2012.
From those at gathered at Lake Ontario Park on Thursday to celebrate Indigenous cultures, the reaction to the removal of the statue was mixed.
“It’s really not going to accomplish much because Sir John A. statue is not Sir John A. It’s just a statue of him,” said Kenneth Harlin.
Dakota Ward, who is Sioux Cree, agrees and believes it’s important to keep reminders of what he represents, front and centre. “I don’t really see a point in it, to be honest. If anything, you should leave it there so you can learn from what’s happened.”
WATCH: Kingston debates Sir John A. Macdonald’s legacy
Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson says that while cities like Victoria may remove their Macdonald monuments, he believes they are an important part of history.
“As his hometown, we’re really embracing that wider approach about talking about that full legacy, the good and the bad,” Paterson said.
It could be a difficult move, since Kingston often advertises itself as the home of Canada’s first prime minister, with attractions like Bellevue House, where Macdonald and his family lived for some time.
Despite Macdonald’s strong presence in Kingston, Rachel-Lee Cousineau believes that it might be possible to phase Macdonald out of the spotlight.
“Somebody of significance in history that descends from native ancestry be perhaps put in his place, just to honour our First Nations people.”
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