Regina council votes in favour of removing statue of Sir John A. Macdonald from Victoria Park

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Regina councillors voted Wednesday to remove the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in Victoria Park.  (Bryan Eneas/CBC - image credit)
Regina councillors voted Wednesday to remove the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in Victoria Park. (Bryan Eneas/CBC - image credit)

Regina's city council voted seven to four Wednesday to remove the Sir John A. Macdonald statue from Victoria Park.

The statue will now be put into storage while the city does public consultations on a new location.

About 20 delegations submitted or spoke to council in advance of Wednesday's vote. Some suggested the statue be placed in a museum while others suggested it find a home at the RCMP Heritage Centre.

The vote comes after demonstrations and a petition last summer reignited debate on the statue.

A recent report by city administrators said removing or relocating the statue doesn't have an impact on the broader understanding of history. It said that while there is a "theme" in public response that it would "erase" history, the statue on its own tells an incomplete story.

A red dress, meant to honour and represent missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, was hung beside the statue of John A. Macdonald in Victoria Park last summer. For months the city has been doing consultations about the statue and its place in Victoria Park.
A red dress, meant to honour and represent missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, was hung beside the statue of John A. Macdonald in Victoria Park last summer. For months the city has been doing consultations about the statue and its place in Victoria Park. (CBC)

Administration said the statue overlooks the negative impacts Macdonald's policies and initiatives have had on Indigenous peoples.

"These policies include use of day schools and residential schools as tools of assimilation, relocation of Indigenous peoples away from traditional hunting and fishing areas to make room for European settlement, and an inadequate and often corrupt system for delivering rations to reserves," the report said.

Kerry Bellegarde-Opoonechaw is a survivor of the Sixties Scoop — when Indigneous children were removed from their homes and placed in non-Indigenous homes — and one of the main people behind the petition to have the statue removed.

She said her ancestors were starved under Macdonald's policies and that after speaking up against the policies, her grandfather was one of eight warriors hanged at Macdonald's order.

"He said the executions of the Indians ought to convince the red men that the white man governs," Bellegarde-Opoonechaw said. "To make this point clear, he invited Indigenous young students from the Battleford Industrial School and they had to watch these men hang."

Kerry Bellegarde-Opoonechaw and Star Andreas held a small protest outside of city hall last summer calling for the removal of the John A. Macdonald statue from Victoria Park.
Kerry Bellegarde-Opoonechaw and Star Andreas held a small protest outside of city hall last summer calling for the removal of the John A. Macdonald statue from Victoria Park. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

Bellegarde-Opponechaw said the statue is a constant reminder of what Macdonald did. She said Indigenous people cannot move forward on their own and that she needs the council's help to move Regina forward.

Kayla MacLellan said Macdonald was responsible for decimating Indigenous people with policies that directly affected her ancestors. She said intergenerational trauma affects a person's DNA and is passed down through generations.

"With all due respect, I noticed that no one on city council looks like me. So when you walk past the statue of John A. Macdonald, your body doesn't remember your grandparents emaciated, begging for food for their children. But mine does. And I know I'm not alone in that."

MacLellan said Macdonald discriminated against more than Indigenous peoples and had strong stances against immigration, enacting the Chinese Head Tax, dehumanizing other races as animals and fuelling anti-Asian racism that is still seen today.

"John A. Macdonald was a white supremacist," she said. "Of course, this is not someone who should be commemorated in a public park."

Star Andreas (left) and her mother Beatrice Laframboise held a protest at the Sir John A. Macdonald statue in Regina's Victoria Park on March 31 as council debated the removal of the statue.
Star Andreas (left) and her mother Beatrice Laframboise held a protest at the Sir John A. Macdonald statue in Regina's Victoria Park on March 31 as council debated the removal of the statue. (Matt Duguid/CBC)

Trevor Lakness said he spoke as a resident of Regina and asked for the statue to remain as is. He said he has no trust in the government relocating the statue. He said Macdonald did things that "offended native people," such as residential schools, but that he should also be honoured for creating Canada.

"You guys are opening up a can of worms. Next, we're going to have to move Tommy Douglas statues in Weyburn and names of his buildings because he said bad things about certain groups," he said. "Nobody in our Canadian history is perfect. John A. Macdonald did create one of the best countries in the world that people flee to."

Lakness said the statue could be accompanied by more plaques that tell different stories, or perhaps other statues of Indigenous chiefs could be put up throughout the park.

"Maybe I'm on the wrong side of history on this … John A. Macdonald, I am certain that he did do some bad things, as did every other prime minister," Lakness said. "He's still our first prime minister and we need our kids to know our history."

Statue shows incomplete story, report said

The report said the statue also doesn't include information about Macdonald's impact on other non-white ethno-cultural groups. It said the Chinese head tax policy was implemented under Macdonald at a price of $50. It later grew to $500 and was eventually replaced by the Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred most Chinese immigration until 1947.

"These policies had a longstanding impact on the Chinese community in Canada; immigrants, mainly men, spent long years separated from their families, some never seeing their loved ones again. Lost cultural traditions occurred from this separation," the report said.

It will cost $25,000 to $35,000 to remove the statue, treat the site and engage the public. The city said this money can already be found in existing budgets.

The new location would be somewhere the statue could be accessed by those who wanted to view it, but not a public park or public event space, and would include appropriate context with interpretive panels that speak to Macdonald's full legacy, the report said.