What to expect as Hamilton weighs whether to remove Macdonald statue

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Published July 7, 2021 at 10:25 pm

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It will be no ordinary emergency and community services committee meeting in Hamilton on Thursday afternoon, when city councillors are expected to vote on whether to remove a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald from a downtown park.

Typically, a motion before a city committee does not elicit a dozen delegation requests, or more than 1,250 correspondences with the city. That is the tally on the meeting agenda posted to the city’s website.

Ward 3 City Councillor Nrinder Nann will introduce a motion to remove the statue of Macdonald and place it into storage, due to his role in the creation of residential schools in the 19th century when he was Canada’s first prime minister. The schools were an instrument of the Canadian state’s effort to assimilate Indigenous peoples, which is a source of ongoing trauma for residential school survivors and their families.

Since May 27, the remains of over 1,500 Indigenous childrens have been found during searches of former school sites in British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Several municipalities and school boards have removed Macdonald’s name or likeness from public spaces, including Charlottetown, which dines out

The delegated presenters include Jordan Carrier, a Plains Cree activist who initiated a letter-writing campaign to Hamilton’s elected leaders pressing for the statue’s removal two weeks ago. The delegate list also includes Kojo Damptey, interim executive director of the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, and Miriam Sager, who has long been part of the leadership of the non-profit Sexual Assault Centre — Hamilton Area (SACHA). 

Two of the 12 delegates have stated they want to present reasons for keeping the statue in place. One is Jason Capobianco and the other is Robin McKee, of the Sir John A. Macdonald society.

Nann also has a motion to remove the name Ryerson from a recreation centre at 251 Duke St., in her agenda. The Rev. Dr. Ian Sloan of New Vision United Church is slated to speak in support of the motion. He is the only delegated presenter on that issue.

Prior to a potential vote, the committee’s discussion items will include beginning a landmark and monuments review for the entire city. A staff report says the review will be held “to determine opportunities to honour the Indigenous community in accordance with the Urban Indigenous Strategy action 12.” This refers to one of the short-term goals of the Urban Indigenous Strategy that the city adopted in 2019

The meeting is slated for 1:30 p.m., and can be followed on Cable 14 or at youtube.com/user/InsideCityofHamilton.

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