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The City of Charlottetown is moving forward on changes to the controversial bench statue of Sir John A. Macdonald.
At a meeting of the economic development, tourism and event management committee on Wednesday, the decision was made to proceed with rewriting the plaque that tells the story of Canada’s first prime minister.
Right now, that plaque only talks about Macdonald’s role in Confederation. There is no mention of the fact he 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.
The economic committee decided on Wednesday that it will proceed with engaging a historian who is well versed in the residential school system and that the process of replacing the existing plaque with one that tells a more complete story will begin.
A dialogue between the city and Indigenous stakeholders has been ongoing since council decided last June that the statue, located at the corner of Queen Street and Victoria Row, would remain in place. Those stakeholders include L’nuey, the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. and the Native Council of P.E.I.
Coun. Julie McCabe, chairwoman of the economic development, tourism and event management committee, said the intent is to work with the stakeholders and historians on what a new plaque will say.
McCabe added that, based on the latest correspondence the city has received, only the Native Council of P.E.I. has agreed to take part. She said the door is always open to the other two groups.
Mayor Philip Brown told the committee that it has to keep in mind that there is going to be a major revisioning of the area around the statue to coincide with the reopening of Province House, which is expected to be in 2023. Brown said the exercise will include an interpretive centre and could see changes made on Richmond Street, from Province House to Queen Street and down to Sydney Street.
Brown said the province is also setting up a working group towards an eye on reconciliation.
McCabe said it’s important for the city to follow through now on its promise last June to act on the issue.
Dave Stewart is The Guardian's municipal reporter.
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