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Charlottetown councillor says city dragging feet on controversial statue issue

City workers clean off red paint dumped on the John A. Macdonald statue on June 19.
City workers clean off red paint dumped on the John A. Macdonald statue in this file photo. - Stu Neatby
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

A Charlottetown councillor says the city is dragging its feet on decisions involving a controversial statue.

During council’s regular public monthly meeting on Monday, Coun. Mike Duffy asked why the issue around the Sir John A. Macdonald statue has not progressed in seven months.

Council passed a unanimous resolution on June 25 last year declaring that the statue would not be moved off its present location at the corner of Queen Street and Victoria Row. Further to that, an ad-hoc committee was tasked with engaging Indigenous stakeholders on where to go next.

“Here we are seven months later and we don’t seem to be getting anywhere,’’ Duffy said, asking Coun. Julie McCabe, chairwoman of council’s standing committee on economic development, tourism and event management for an update. “Tourism season is coming upon us and that’s a major area of the city. I don’t see any progress.’’

McCabe said meetings with stakeholders, such as L’nuey, the Mi’kmawq Confederacy of P.E.I. and the Native Council of P.E.I. are ongoing and information between those groups and the city is being shared.

Coun. Julie McCabe - Contributed
Coun. Julie McCabe - Contributed

 

Coun. Terry Bernard echoed Duffy’s frustration, saying that it really comes down to rewriting the plaque located adjacent to the statue to tell Macdonald’s full story.

While he was Canada’s first prime minister, Macdonald was also the architect of the country’s residential school system. Residential school officials forcefully removed Indigenous children from their families and many of them were abused and died in the schools.

Bernard said it should not take seven months to rewrite the plaque that details Macdonald’s history.

The bench statue of Sir John A. Macdonald at the corner of Victoria Row and Queen Street in Charlottetown shows the effects of having been sandblasted recently after it was doused with red paint. - SaltWire file
The bench statue of Sir John A. Macdonald at the corner of Victoria Row and Queen Street in Charlottetown shows the effects of having been sandblasted recently after it was doused with red paint. - SaltWire file

 

McCabe said efforts are being made to work collaboratively with the stakeholders.

“We need to make sure we are on the same page,’’ McCabe said.

At one point, Mayor Philip Brown chimed in to remind council that Parks Canada is looking at making some significant changes to the area in the leadup to the reopening of Province House, which is expected to take place in 2023.

“Sometimes you can’t rush these issues,’’ Brown said. “This is part of a dialogue that is taking place with different organizations.’’


IN BRIEF: Highlights from coucil's Jan. 11 meeting


Fire Hall

There was no new information about a design for a third fire hall at Monday’s meeting.

Council awarded the design tender to SableArc Studios last month but things hit a snag when Bill Chandler, owner of Chandler Architecture, said he was considering challenging the decision, pointing out that his firm finished with a better score in the bidding process.

One councillor told The Guardian discussions are taking place in private at the moment.


Traffic unit

Coun. Mitchell Tweel continues to argue that the city should be hiring more police officers and creating a traffic unit whose sole job would be to enforce the Highway Traffic Act.

Tweel said the city falls 17 officers short of the national average in municipal police forces.

Coun. Greg Rivard, chairman of council’s standing committee on protective and emergency services, said these are discussions that will take place as the city determines what it’s budget for 2021-22 will be.

However, Rivard warned that hiring officers and creating a traffic unit, which did exist at one time in the city, would cost major dollars and would likely only happen if the municipality raised taxes.


Dave Stewart is The Guardian's municipal reporter.

Twitter.com/DveStewart

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