The following is a submitted open letter to Kingston City Council. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of The Kingstonist.
Mayor Bryan Paterson and Kingston City Council,
We are all aware of the recent discovery at Kamloops Indian Residential School. Since then, we have seen memorials in front of Kingston City Hall and at Confederation Park. These types of gestures certainly have their merits. For many, they are an opportunity for acknowledgement and healing, but for others, they ring hollow when less than a kilometer away rests a statue of someone who played a major role in cultural and literal genocide.
I am writing to formally request the removal of the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald from City Park. I have no direct ties to Indigenous culture, and I don’t speak for any specific group. I write to you simply as a lifelong Kingstonian and concerned citizen.
People talk about the dark chapters in Canadian history. But it is not history. The darkness endures. This country has been unable to get clean drinking water to people in northern Indigenous communities, while at the same time, spends half a billion dollars to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the colonization of their land.
Martin Luther King Jr. said that time is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. Without hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. Canada has rested on inevitability for too long, and late last month, time caught up with us. What was found below Kamploops Residential School was not just the forgotten dead, but truth. Unlike time, truth is not neutral. No lie can live forever. Canada has avoided the truth of its history for far too long. And, like time, truth caught up. Efforts are already underway to discover what other truths may lie beneath Canadian soil. Canada is at a crossroads, and it has to face the truths it has avoided for so long. Right now we have a choice to deliberately seek and face truth, or wait until truth finds us.
The past year has seen a worldwide awakening to issues of social and racial injustice. All over the world, images of racism and colonialism have fallen; some by legitimate means, and some not. Nearly a year ago, a mob in Montreal forcibly removed a statue very similar to Kingston’s. More recently, a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald was removed from downtown Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and at the time of this writing, Prince Edward County Council just voted to remove its statue in downtown Picton.
Kingstonians are watching. We’re waiting for our own leaders to take similar action. The world is changing, and leaders who refuse to change with it, and instead stand against the inevitability of truth, often find themselves vestiges of an outmoded mentality.
Many of you I’ve met. Some I know personally. I know you to be people of good character, and I know you believe in this community as much as anyone. Kingston is a beautiful city that I’m happy to call home. The purpose of the removal of Sir John A. Macdonald’s statue is not to erase or rewrite history. It is not to forget the positive contributions he made to Canadian history. It is about finding balance. It is to acknowledge the good of this country, while coming to terms with its darker side. It is to build a more inclusive community that all living within its borders can feel comfortable calling home.
John Sanfilippo, Kingston resident