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John A. Macdonald statue ‘painful reminder’ of colonialism: Victoria mayor

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VICTORIA — A statue of former prime minister John A. Macdonald will be removed from the front entrance of Victoria City Hall as a gesture of reconciliation with First Nations, says the city’s Mayor Lisa Helps.

Macdonald was the first prime minister of Canada and Helps said he was also a “key architect” of the residential school system.

The decision, which must be approved by council, followed a year of deliberations and consultation with the local Songhees and Esquimalt chiefs and councils, she said in an interview Wednesday.

“For people who are Indigenous who are coming into city hall, who may have been in residential schools, or their moms or grandmas or dads or grandpas were in residential schools, this statue is a physical manifestation of that painful colonial history that they themselves or their families have experienced,” Helps said in an interview.

The decision to remove the statue is the first concrete action by the so-called City Family, made up of the mayor, two councillors, and Indigenous representatives, as part of city’s reconciliation program.

Council will receive the report Thursday recommending the statue removal, and Helps said she can’t imagine it will be rejected since council gave the group a mandate to pursue reconciliation when it formed last year.

While the statue is in storage, Helps said the city will continue a dialogue about how to tell a more complete story about Macdonald’s history that both celebrates his contributions as the country’s first prime minister at the same time as acknowledging the harm he caused.

In a post on her campaign website, she points to the following statement that Macdonald made in the House of Commons in 1883, as evidence of his harmful legacy and thinking:

“When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with its parents, who are savages, and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and training mode of thought are Indian.”

“It has been strongly impressed upon myself, as head of the Department, that Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men.”

Although Helps has an undergraduate, master’s and partially completed PhD in Canadian history, she said she is ashamed that she was unaware of the Father of Confederation’s role in developing residential schools.

Helps said the city does not propose erasing history, but rather taking time to tell that chapter of Canadian history in a thoughtful way.

The statue will be removed Saturday and stored until an appropriate way to “recontextualize” Macdonald is determined, she said.

“History is always being retold and part of the act of removing this statue is the ability to tell a more fulsome history John A Macdonald played, both positive and negative, in the history of our country.”

A cleansing, blessing and healing ceremony will be held in the space after the statue is removed and a plaque explaining its removal will be installed in its place.

In the longer term, a piece of art representative of the Lekwungen culture, which includes both the Songhees and Esquimalt nations, will likely go in its place, Helps said.

Victoria isn’t the only government or institution reviewing its celebration of Macdonald. In August, an elementary teachers’ union in Ontario issued a call to remove his name from schools in the province. And in May, the Canadian Historical Association voted to strip Macdonald’s name from one of its top writing prizes.

Other historical figures have also come under scrutiny for their roles in the residential school system.

The Office of the Prime Minister and the Privy Council was known as Langevin Block until Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had it changed. Hector-Louis Langevin, another Father of Confederation, argued that a separate school system for Indigenous youth was needed to assimilate them into Canadian Culture.

Ontario’s public education system owes its beginnings to Egerton Ryerson, but he is also believed to have helped shape residential school policy through his ideas on education of Indigenous children. Indigenous students’ group and the Ryerson Students Union have called for Toronto’s Ryerson University to change its name out of respect for residential school survivors.

— By Amy Smart in Vancouver

The Canadian Press


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Woman and her dog lost for 72 hours in B.C. woods are found safe

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INVERMERE, B.C. — A 52-year-old woman and her dog are both safe and unharmed after wandering lost for 72 hours in the thick woods in southeastern B.C.

RCMP Sgt. Chris Newel says Louise Baxter hopped off a rescue helicopter Wednesday, hugged her husband and was talking and laughing with her rescuers.

Baxter went out for a hike with friends in the Jumbo Pass area on Sunday, but she disappeared after taking her leashed dog out for what she said would be a short walk.

Newel says Baxter appears to have become disoriented shortly after leaving her friends and then heading down the mountain, moving “west when she probably should have been heading east.”

The dog, a golden poodle named Maverick, was with her the whole time and Newel says the animal is also in good health. 

At the height of the search, there were three helicopters, four search dogs, a drone and 35 search and rescue volunteers looking for the woman in the difficult, mountainous terrain.

Newel, who was the incident commander for the search, said Baxter saw the search helicopters and tried to flag them down, but no one saw her.

“But if anybody’s every been in a helicopter, trying spot a person in forested area is extremely difficult and a lot harder than you would think,” he said in an interview on Thursday. “I can’t imagine the emotion that would have gone through her seeing these helicopters and not be able to signal them in some sort of way.”

Baxter is an avid hiker, Newel said, adding the general rule of thumb for those who get lost in the woods is to stay put. Baxter did stay in one place for a while but proceeded down the mountain because she thought help wasn’t coming, he said.

“But she was working further and further out from the primary search area.”

He said she found water along the way and ate berries, but didn’t have anything else to eat.

“I couldn’t believe when she walked off that helicopter and practically ran to her husband,” Newel added.

 

The Canadian Press


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National

Greens won’t run candidate in Burnaby South as ‘leader’s courtesy’ to Singh: May

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VICTORIA — The Green party will not run a candidate against NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in the riding of Burnaby South.

Green Leader Elizabeth May says the decision is an extension of a “leader’s courtesy,” a long-standing Canadian parliamentary tradition that facilitates a newly elected party leader’s entry to the House of Commons in an unopposed byelection.

She says in a statement the Greens believe it is right to step aside to allow the leader of “an important part of the political spectrum” to serve in Parliament.

Singh announced his candidacy for the federal riding after New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart indicated he was stepping aside to run for mayor of Vancouver.

The Liberal and Conservative parties have not announced candidates in the riding, but the Liberals have said they will contest the byelection.

May received the leader’s courtesy in 2008 when then-Liberal leader Stephane Dion chose not to run a candidate against her in Central Nova. She extended the same gesture to Dion.

In 2002, the Liberals and Conservatives stepped aside for Stephen Harper when he ran in a byelection held shortly after he became leader of the Canadian Alliance.

No date has been set for a byelection.

Singh sat in Ontario’s legislature and served as the provincial NDP’s deputy leader before he replaced Tom Mulcair as the federal leader.

The Canadian Press


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