Protest calls for removal of Sir John A. Macdonald’s statue in City Park

Crowd delivered an unsigned letter to City Hall demanding the statue be taken down

Image by: Jodie Grieve
The protest started at the statue in City Park before the crowd walked to Kingston City Hall to deliver an unsigned letter requesting the statue’s removal.

This story was updated with new information on June 25 at 10:30 a.m.

More than 100 people gathered on Saturday afternoon to call for the removal of Sir John A. Macdonald’s statue from City Park.

While no specific organization took credit for the event, Natasha Stirrett, a member of the Ermineskin Cree Nation who grew up in the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, was one of a few speakers who addressed the crowd.

“My mom is a Sixties Scoop survivor. My grandmother was a residential school survivor, who was brutally murdered when she was 35,” Stirrett said. “My great-grandparents lived through the pain and the uncertain times of colonization. They watched their people get shuffled into small patches of land that were [turned into] reserves.”

Stirrett linked the call for the statue’s removal to similar events happening around the world.

“Right now, in this moment, we are seeing that numerous racist, colonial statues and monuments have been removed in the [United States] as a rallying call for systemic change by Black Lives Matter,” Stirrett said.

She pointed to the removal of a statue of Confederate soldier John B. Castleman in Louisville, Kentucky; a statue of Christopher Columbus that was beheaded in Boston, Massachusetts; a couple of statues of King Leopold II in Belgium that were vandalized; and a statue of Edward Colston that was thrown in the harbour in the United Kingdom. 

Stirrett also alluded to a few Canadian examples, including a statue of Edward Cornwallis, the founder of Halifax whose government paid a bounty to anyone who killed a Mi’kmaq person under the Scalping Proclamation, which was taken down in 2018 in Halifax, and a statue of Macdonald that was removed in Victoria in 2017.

READ MORE: Community calls for removal of Sir John A. Macdonald’s name from Faculty of Law building

While Stirrett called for the removal of Macdonald’s statue, she acknowledged removing these monuments is a “bare minimum” demonstration of respect towards Indigenous peoples.

“Removing Sir John A. Macdonald’s statue, and [others] like it, is just a small gesture,” Stirrett said. 

When Stirrett finished addressing the crowd, a number of participants gathered closer to the statue to throw eggs and tomatoes at the monument before walking toward Kingston City Hall to deliver an unsigned letter requesting the statue’s removal.

Some participants carried signs with phrases reading “No honour in genocide” and “Racist tyrants will not be idolized.” A banner displayed the message “Make history; topple colonialism” alongside an image of four people pulling down a statue.

Another individual held a sign sharing a petition calling for the renaming of Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard to Peacemaker’s Boulevard.

The crowd also carried a stuffed effigy of Macdonald hanging from the end of a pole by a noose.

At City Hall, the letter was read aloud to the crowd before a protestor taped the letter to the doors of City Hall. 

The letter summarized the reasons behind the call for the statue’s removal, including an outline of the racist, colonial enactments Macdonald pushed during his time as Canada’s first prime minister. It also asserted there will be a continued demand for the statue’s removal until it’s taken down.

The crowd then watched as the effigy was lit on fire in front of City Hall, chanting “burn, John A., burn” while it continued to burn. 

The Whig-Standard later reported the City has no intention of removing the statue. Mayor Paterson said the City is instead pursuing options to include a broader scope of information about Macdonald on the statue.

“We need to clearly talk about both the good and the bad of Macdonald’s legacy, and be clear in that, so we can make Kingston a true museum without walls,” Paterson told the Whig-Standard. “People come and learn about local history, the good and the bad, and they are better for it.”

On June 25, Sydenham district Councillor Peter Stroud tweeted that, while Paterson said the City has no plans to remove the statue, City Council had not yet been consulted on the decision.


City of Kingston, Truth and Reconciliation

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