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The Colorado artist responsible for creating the bronze bench statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in Charlottetown says he has been getting lots of hate mail.
However, Mike Halterman, 62, isn’t about to apologize for the work he did.
“First of all, I was hired and whenever somebody pays me, I do the work," Halterman said in a telephone interview with The Guardian on Monday.
“It got three hate emails this morning. Oh, yeah, I’m getting those like crazy. Some say John A. was an a**hole. Ok, fine. That’s out of my control. When I’m hired to do the work ... I’ve got bills to pay, too. I’m not backing down from anybody. You want to throw rocks at me? Fine. I’ll throw them back."
The statue has been the subject of much controversy these past few weeks following anti-racism demonstrations on P.E.I., as well as reactions to the deaths of two Indigenous people in New Brunswick in altercations with police.
Macdonald and his government were involved in setting up residential schools that tore families apart and led to the abuse and deaths of Indigenous children. A plaque next to the statue tells a bit about Macdonald’s role in Confederation but there is no mention of his involvement in residential schools.
The City of Charlottetown has received calls and emails from people saying the statue should be removed from its spot at the corner of Victoria Row and Queen Street.
Last week, city council unanimously backed a resolution that will see the statue stay put while the city begins a dialogue with stakeholders in the Indigenous community.
At the same time, the statue was doused with red paint that left the city with a $1,200 (and likely climbing) bill. It took a crew sandblasting it to get the paint off.
Halterman said he wasn't surprised.
“I was kind of expecting it because it's a worldwide (controversy),’’ he said, adding that once monuments are attacked the next step is to go after the artist.
“I’m good with that,’’ he said. “It’s out of my control. What am I going to do?’’
Halterman says he has been sculpting bronze figures for 42 years, is good at what he does and takes a lot of pride in his work. In 2008, he responded to a public request for proposals to create Sir John A. Macdonald, explaining that the $75,000 price tag was a good deal for the city and the partners who were responsible for the project.
Mayor Philip Brown and members of council are talking about paying to have Halterman come to P.E.I., once the U.S.-Canada border reopens, to complete the restoration.