Letter: Requesting removal of Sir John A statue in Kingston City Park

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

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.

Best regards,
John Sanfilippo, Kingston resident

2 thoughts on “Letter: Requesting removal of Sir John A statue in Kingston City Park

  • I concur. The presence of this statue, particularly now when we know just the tip of the iceberg of the truth, is a presence that can only trigger much trauma for our Indigenous neighbours. We need to stop inflicting pain and start measures to put us on the path to healing. The healing process cannot progress if we keep opening up the wounds.

  • I strongly oppose the removal of the statue. A a resident of the city for over 80 years and whose family, here dates back to 1848 I concede that Sir John A was not perfect, but then none of us are. He needs to be judged b y the times he lived in and his contemporaries and the society of his day. Not everything he did was “bad”. He was one of the driving forces behind Confederation; he forced through the CPR, much of his work was positive.
    We Canadians have the tendency to judge the dead by the standards of today , rather than the standards that were in effect in their day, that would not be accepted today. After all Sir John A was elected as an MP several times. While honouring his achievements , we can point out his flaws.

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