City seeks committee members for Sir John A. Macdonald legacy project

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

The City of Kingston says they are seeking “a diverse group of representatives” to sit on a working group addressing the history and legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald in Kingston.

Specifically, the working group will focus on developing the wording that describes Macdonald on municipal property.

“The working group will consider the history and legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald in Kingston and work to build consensus as it develops interpretive text that can be shared on the City’s website and through interpretive panels at local landmarks managed by the City,” said a statement on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020.

Separate recruitment process for Indigenous participants

The City said the group will be made up of eight people: three Kingston residents selected by the City through its current online recruitment process; three that the City has described as both “selected by the Indigenous community,” and “from the local Indigenous community in Kingston;” and two representatives appointed from, and by, the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and Alderville First Nations, respectively.

The City’s application form does not include a field for applicants to identify as Indigenous, or details on the selection process for those members.

When asked for more information the City clarified: “Three seats are held for self-identified Indigenous residents who will be selected by Indigenous community members through a culturally supported selection process. This selection process will be open to all Indigenous residents and facilitated by First Peoples Group (FPG). Community affirmation of working group members will be completed by January 8, 2021.”

If a resident identifies as Indigenous and is interested in being involved in this working group, they can send their name and preferred contact information to [email protected] by Dec 28, 2020.

The City said FPG, an Indigenous owned and operated consulting firm from Ottawa, will support the working group on an on-going basis. FPG also helped facilitate the City’s Sir John A. 360° public engagement in 2019. The formation of this working group was one of the recommended outcomes of that consultation.

Other recommended outcomes included the removal of the words “Spirit of Sir John A” from the antique train in Confederation Basin, and that the City name its new Third Crossing bridge to honour Indigenous culture, people or traditions.

Macdonald’s contested legacy

The legacy and history of Canada’s first Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald has come under increased scrutiny in recent years, with greater focus on the cultural genocide committed against Indigenous peoples through his efforts to assimilate them.

As Macdonald’s home and burial place, Kingston has a statue, courthouse, elementary school, boulevard, museum and several plaques commemorating him throughout the city. While some heritage advocates feel changing them discredits or disqualifies Canadian history, others want to seem them renamed and removed.

Queen’s University announced in October their decision to remove Sir John A. Macdonald’s name from their Faculty of Law building, after a student-led petition garnered 4850 signatures. A local pub housed in Macdonald’s former office building downtown also elected to rebrand in 2018, dropping ‘Sir John’ from its name after hearing objections from the community.

Other online petitions regarding Macdonald’s legacy in Kingston this year include calls to:

Kingston’s Mayor Bryan Paterson said in June that he believes constituents generally want the City to add context to historical monuments and increase Indigenous representation, rather than take things down.

The summer of 2020 saw numerous statues of colonial figures removed and defaced by anti-racist demonstrators across North America and the UK, including the toppling of a statue of Sir. John A. Macdonald in Montreal on Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020.

Samantha Butler-Hassan, Local Journalism Initiative

Samantha Butler-Hassan is a staff writer and life-long Kingston resident. She is a news junkie and mom who loves reading and exploring the community. This article has been made possible with the support of the Local Journalism Initiative.

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