City installs cameras at Sir John A. Macdonald statue

Two of the cameras positioned on the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in City Park. Photo by Lucas Mulder.

It’s been doused in red paint, egged countless times, the target of tomatoes, and threatened to be toppled, but now something else is taking aim at the statue of Sir John A. in City Park.

As of Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, the City of Kingston has installed CCTV cameras aimed at the Sir John A Macdonald statue in the park. The City has also installed the proper signage to indicate to park users that CCTV cameras are used in the area – a legal responsibility, explained Colin Wiginton, Cultural Director for the City of Kingston.

The statue has drawn the ire of those who feel Macdonald should no longer be celebrated, but rather acknowledged for the many roles he played in Canada’s history, including paving the way for residential schools. Most recently, the statue drew the attention of those looking to have it removed – and their eggs and tomatoes – during a rally in favour of removing the Sir John A. Macdonald statue on Saturday, Jun. 20, 2020.

However, Wiginton made no mention of threats to the statue in giving reasoning for the City’s installation of the cameras.

“This monument is considered a public asset like any other the municipality is required to care for, and the cameras have been added so we can better monitor the area in an on-going way,” he said.

Two more of the City-installed cameras aimed at the Sir John A. Macdonald statue in City Park. Photo by Lucas Mulder.

“Of greater importance, however, is the fact that the City of Kingston recently completed an 18-month public engagement process that looked at how Kingston stories are told through the City’s cultural exhibitions and programming,” Wiginton continued.

Indeed, since the June 20 rally, City Council received a update report and recommendations for implementing actions based on the outcome of the ‘Your Stories, Our History’ public engagement project (and in recognition of the need to address the history and legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald in Kingston) on Tuesday, Jul. 8, 2020 (Agenda with recommendations available here;  report update available here).Those recommendations were as follows:

  1. Remove the script reading “The Spirit of Sir John A.” from the Engine 1095 tender in Confederation Park;
  2. Replace the book plaques adjacent to the monument to Sir John A. Macdonald in City Park and Engine 1095 in Confederation Park with interim notices that indicate new text is under development to tell a more complete and inclusive account of their histories in a Kingston context;
  3. Form a working group, led by First Peoples Group and supported by City staff, that includes both Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members, representing a diversity of perspectives, to develop text that addresses issues specific to the history and legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald in Kingston that can be shared online and on-site through the City of Kingston website and in relation to local landmarks managed by the City of Kingston;
  4. Add a land recognition statement, developed by the Indigenous community, to the City of Kingston website and to all City of Kingston e-mail signatures; and
  5. Confirm the City’s support to name The Third Crossing in a way that reflects and celebrates the stories and contributions of Indigenous communities in this region, both past and present.

At that meeting, Council voted in favour of all but one of those recommendations – the removal of the script reading ‘The Spirit of Sir John A.’ from the train in Confederation Park was deferred pending further input from those who worked on the project to restore the train engine (much of which was done voluntarily).

Council heard from First Peoples Group, the celebrated Indigenous consultation group that carried out the Your Stories, Our History and Sir John A. 360 studies, that most people – Indigenous and otherwise – support the idea of adding to monuments that already exist, rather than taking monuments and statues away. Wiginton explained those findings and decisions further.

“As part of that engagement, the City sought feedback from the community specific to Sir John A. Macdonald and his legacy and how both are presented in Kingston. The majority of participants involved in the engagement felt it was important to keep the monument in place but to develop an approach to interpreting local history in ways that are more complete and inclusive,” he said.

“Kingston City Council also recently directed staff to form a working group made up of Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members to develop new text for the book plaque adjacent to the monument in City Park that provides a more honest and inclusive account of Macdonald’s history in a Kingston context and that work will be getting underway soon.”

The statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in Kingston’s City Park. Kingstonist file photo.

Wiginton indicated that the cameras will remain fixed on the statue in City Park indefinitely.

Kingstonist followed up with the City of Kingston to find out if any other monuments, statues, or city assets are monitored by CCTV, as well as how much the cameras and their installation cost the City, and when exactly the cameras were installed. The City did not immediately respond to these questions. Kingstonist will update this article if/when more information becomes available.

UPDATE (Wednesday, Sept 16, 2020):

In response to the questions above, the City of Kingston has offered the following information:

“The addition of cameras on the monument is an extension of an already existing practice when it comes to managing and monitoring City-owned assets. For example, CCTV cameras monitor public assets at Breakwater Park, Confederation Basin, Springer Market Square, and on Kingston Transit,” the City said in an email to Kingstonist, noting that the cameras were installed on Thursday, Sept. 10.

As for the price tag on the whole project, the City said the hardware and installation cost $5,500 and on-site signage cost $270.

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