Hamilton council votes to keep Sir John A. Macdonald statue in place


Published July 9, 2021 at 5:56 pm


The Sir John A. MacDonald statue in Hamilton’s Gore Park will remain in place until a study on the City’s handling of landmarks and monuments is completed.

Following a lengthy debate at Friday’s (July 9) council meeting, councillors voted 12 to 3 against a motion put forward by Ward 3 councillor Nrindr Nann to remove the statue.

The motion, originally introduced at the Emergency and Community Services Committee (ECSC) on Thursday, called for the immediate removal of the “statue of John A. MacDonald from City of Hamilton owned lands known as Gore Park and place it in storage; until the Landmarks and Monuments Review has been conducted.”

On the committee agenda, there were more than 1,000 letters of support for the motion and numerous delegations and yet, it was struck down by a 3 to 2 vote.

The debate over the motion continued at Council as it was pulled from the committee report for a separate vote.

Nann kicked the debate off by pointing out that the statue is a stark and constant reminder to Indigenous people and members of the community of Canada’s “painful legacy” and that the statue’s removal is a “pre-work condition” before the landmarks and monuments review can get underway.

“[Its removal will create] the safe conditions under which we can engage in good faith with Indigenous people,” she said.

When the $75,000 review gets underway, it is expected that Indigenous leaders — some of whom delegated to the ECSC on Thursday — will be engaged in the process and will help inform the City’s policy.

Macdonald’s likeness and name have been removed from public spaces across Canada due to his role in the expansion of residential schools in the late 19th century.

In the last six weeks, remains of more than 1,500 Indigenous children have been found through First Nations-led searches of the lands on which these institutions once stood.

In her comments, Nann also reminded councillors of their commitment to the Urban Indigenous Strategy which was ratified in 2019.

Ward 9 Councillor Brad Clark, who offered a friendly amendment to the original motion to have the statue placed in safe storage until the study’s completion, echoed Nann’s statements.

“If we want to have a conversation with the Indigenous community [it is] a reasonable compromise to take down the statue and put it in storage,” he said.

Clark, Nann and Ward 1 councillor Maureen Wilson, who was also vehement in her support of the motion, were in the minority at Friday’s meeting.

Other councillors were concerned that the statue’s removal would lead to violence and suggested that a so-called ‘one-off’ approach could set an unwanted precedent.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger was among those who felt that the statue’s removal would create further division in the community.

“If we’re going to continue to act in ways to divide then go ahead and remove that statue and we’ll create a greater division in our community as a result of that, not a better one,” he said.

“The path to reconciliation is through consultation and collaboration not through the destruction of artifacts and monuments.”

Council did vote unanimously — 14 to 0 — to “undertake a Historical Review of City of Hamilton owned landmarks, including park and street names, to determine opportunities to honour the Indigenous community in accordance with the Urban Indigenous Strategy.”

No timeline has been attached to the review as of yet.

— with a file from Nathan Sager

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