Deputations Offered By Prince Edward County Residents (June 7, 2021, Special Meeting)
John A MacDonald on Main Street: Holding Court
Charlotte Grace Miller
My name is Charlotte Grace Miller and I am the descendent of European settlers in this Country. I do not feel it is my place to speak for the voices who need to be heard at this time, but I do see that certain individuals with the power to take immediate action towards change seem hard of hearing. No one expects you to have all the answers right away. It is our place to listen and hold space for the truth that is finally emerging. I am certainly not alone in my lack of shock around the recent “news” from Kamloops. I further believe that the released estimate of a total 6000 is grossly conservative. Reconciliation in any relationship requires tremendous commitment and effort on both or all sides. Let us acknowledge that the burden of this work has been carried solely on the shoulders of First Nations peoples for hundreds of years. This has been done through persistence and preservation of their culture and wisdom with incredible grace, peace, and strength in the face of near unspeakable horror. Let us be grateful that the invitation for reconciliation is even still on the table. Yet another example of the wisdom of all Indigenous groups around leadership, sustainability, symbiosis, and justice. As we are all witnessing, the systems we have built are toppling. It seems as though the path forward for all of us is going to rely heavily on the growth of a wisdom of which Indigenous groups around the world are the seed holders. For many who are still feeling their reactions to this viscerally, offering that wisdom up must seem the addition of insult to injury. Therefore, a surrender of power and resources back is called for – so that this does not become a further burden, but a birth. A surrender with profound apology and gratitude for who these people are and who they have become. Tearing the statues down won’t do this. What it might do is demonstrate an acknowledgement of what has long been denied. An acknowledgement that there must be radical change and reciprocity. Now. These children’s voices will be heard. Let us heed the lesson. They have been whispering a long time and are steadily growing into a howl that won’t be ignored. Steve Ferguson, whose name means Crown of the Son of Anger, It is time to kneel and honour the true Queen Mother, Earth, and ALL of her people. There are too many pawns on the board, Sir. Own your name and set your aim mindfully, and with heart.
With gratitude, Charlotte Further
Vicky Lynn Roy
I’m situated as a white settler, married into an Indigenous family, mother of Indigenous children. I am also an educator, which implicates me and obligates me to advocate for change, and use my position of power in an institution of education toward that end. I would argue, however, that we are all educators. Parents, public figures, community members: we are all teaching the next generations through our actions, big and small. Our children are watching our everyday actions, questioning how we will leverage what we learn from our history and use it to express our changing values as a society. What will we show them? You have countless members of the community locally and beyond who are willing to offer information and additional resources towards reaching peaceful reconciliation. Use them
I’m Shannon Helm, I was born and have lived in the County most of my life. I also taught for 5 years in a fly-in Cree community in Northern Ontario, where I fell in love and had two beautiful Cree daughters. One day when my eldest was in grade 4 and attending the after-school club at the library, we walked together past the statue at the Armoury. She turned and asked me if I thought that he would want to kill her too. This question still haunts me. It was a wakeup call for me and a year ago, I finally wrote a petition asking for the statue to be removed. To date, 1197people have signed, over 300 in the last 5 days alone. In October I helped organize an art show Intersections: Anti-Racist Conversations on John A Macdonald, and it took place in 21 windows along the street. I know from this project just how embarrassing upstreet businesses find this statue. This will be my third time deputating to council on the subject, and I hope it is my last.
This fall we have returned north where I am teaching again. My class is entirely Cree children. As a white mom and teacher, I am very aware of the ongoing impact that Residential Schools has on Indigenous families. I am 48, and everyone my age here in Peawanuck went to St. Anne’s Residential School. Every kind of abuse happened at St. Anne’s: physical, sexual, and emotional. Many of the pedophiles at this school were imprisoned. This school also is famous for its use of the electric chair. 7 of my children’s auties and uncles went to St. Anne’s, and only 6 came home. My youngest daughter is named after her uncle Charlie, whose body was repatriated from St. Anne’s just days before her birth in 2011.
Here, in Peawanuck, people rarely share their residential school experiences; but last week at the flag-lowering ceremony in mourning for the 215, many survivors shared their stories. They spoke of how they lost their childhoods, and how their experiences at St. Anne’s affected their ability to trust and love, how it damaged their relationships with their parents, and when they had children of their own, how it made it hard to tell their children they loved them, made it hard to hug their children. When the survivors had finished speaking, several children stood to speak, and one young boy said that he had just heard about Residential School that morning and that he went home at lunch and cried and that now he just felt scared. I share this with you because as adults, and as non- Indigenous people, we can feel offended by a statue, we can feel horrified by the colonial violence that we have benefitted from, but for Indigenous children the feeling this history invokes is fear. Fear that the government is going to come and take them too.
We must come to terms with our colonial past if we are ever to dream of becoming a safe and inclusive community. We may no longer be a “proud” Loyalist town, but we will still be a Loyalist town. The truth is you can’t erase history. Moving a statue to create safe community spaces, erases nothing; but it shows respect for the survivors of genocide and systemic racism. It signals to Indigenous People that our community is listening to their experiences. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights considers the entire colonial experience, from the first contact to today, as genocide. For me, the statue of JAM is not only a celebration of a man who legislated genocide, this statue is also, for me, a symbol of colonialism, patriarchy, and white supremacy. Council previously decided to ignore the working groups’ recommendation to remove the statue in favour of adding a plaque. The entire country is beginning to realize that Canada is built on genocide. Are you planning to “contextualize” genocide?
Good money chasing after bad is nothing new. The John A. MacDonald sculpture was challenged from the very beginning as a bad idea.
Now we have 215 dead children. There will be more by all accounts. There are currently 4000 marked and unmarked graves of Indigenous children previously documented. At what point will council be uncomfortable enough to remove the offending sculpture? Recent events should be grounds to nullify any previous agreements.
According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission ‘MacDonald was key in the implementation of the residential school system, that took 150,000 Indigenous children from their families to suffer cultural genocide’.
150,000 and many did not make it home, and those that did suffered, because of the brutality they were subjected to. MacDonald presented the plan to the House of Commons in 1882:
“When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with parents who are savages; and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and training and mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write. It has been strongly pressed upon myself, as the head of the Department, that the Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will require the habits and modes of thought of white men.”
I certainly hope not, because the thoughts and modes that John A. implemented used violence and starvation as a method of controlling and removing the Indigenous population, mostly to push forward the railroad.
Think of what a different country we would be now if that had not happened. But it did, and the Band-Aid has been ripped off for the world to see. And they see us now, having a public meeting to discuss if the sculpture should remain up or not. Any argument to leave it up for teaching purposes or some misplaced sense of history is misguided and insensitive.
This past Sunday the Star wrote that ‘Prime Minister Trudeau’s acceptance of an inquiry’s findings that Canada committed genocide against Indigenous people could have tremendous legal impact if a court ever weighs Ottawa’s responsibility for crimes against humanity. Lets just think about that for a minute.
The decision to remove or retain the sculpture will determine if this community chooses to stand on the right side of history, or not. Are we progressive, or not? Are we good neighbours, or not?
It is time to change the dial on the damage that was done by John A. MacDonald. A monument is a reflection of what is important to a community and what it aspires to. Surely it is not this. Take it down.
To the Chair of council, thank you for this opportunity to speak tonight
My name is Jennifer Litke, I am the founder of People of PEC and I am a sitting member of Picton’s Canada Day Committee. I also moderate a Facebook Community group in the County. I live in Milford, ON with my family. My husband’s family have farmed here for generations, and I have been a resident for 24 years.
My ancestors have been on this land, which is now Canada, since at least the 17th century. My family are some of the first colonizers.
I am disappointed that our council disregarded the recommendations made by the two separate working groups to remove the statue of John A MacDonald the last time this was brought before council. Particularly since there was so much work completed by each group in order to examine the issue.
Since then, there appears to have been no urgency in creating a historical context surrounding the presence of the statue on Main Street.
Within the past year, I have personally witnessed and read atrocious, violent and inflammatory statements of racism toward Indigenous people from residents within this community. I don’t make that statement lightly. These comments have been made online and in person on Main street. During the railway blockade last year, there were angry and inflamed comments made on my Facebook group where people made veiled threats against Indigenous people, even insinuating they would run these people over with the cars. It is glaringly obvious there is a tremendous amount of prejudice toward Indigenous people from some who reside in this region.
This sort of prejudice and racism is directly responsible for dehumanizing Indigenous people.
Dehumanizing people is violence.
John A MacDonald was the architect responsible for creating the very system that made it legal to continually commit violence against the people who had resided on this land for 10,000 years. It was his design that categorized Indigenous people as “not human”. It was his “Indian Agents” that starved the people by taking away their food supply and forced them onto reservations. It was his government that endorsed and created the system of residential schools that stole away thousands of children from their families, where there was a mortality rate between 40-60%. It was John A MacDonald who allowed his government to look the other way when the abuse was disclosed. And every government since has followed in the foot-steps of the father of our country. John A MacDonald is responsible for genocide.
And by leaving his visage on Main street, we are telling the Indigenous people that what happened to them is simply in the past–a minor infraction–”history”
It isn’t history to them.
It’s their past, present and future.
The generational trauma is still felt today.
It is a fresh and painful wound that can’t heal because the governing powers of this land have violently and unapologetically allowed the injustice to continue.
When I, a non-Indigenous person, read about the atrocities of what the residential school system did to these little children, I am left with the same horrific shock that I felt after seeing the images and the reading the stories of holocaust survivors. We should be left with immense shame at the history of our founding.
And allowing him to remain on Main street tells the rest of this community that the history of our country and the violence perpetrated against human beings was okay. It perpetuates violence against Indigenous people today.
I haven’t learned anything about our history because of a statue on Main street. It’s not history, it’s an interpretation. It’s art. Removing him won’t erase history.
If history is important to the residents of this region, then by all means I encourage them to read all about the Residential School System. Listen to Indigenous people when they speak. Dig into the Calls to Action that are outlined in the report for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But history is not in the image of a man. I am asking you to vote to REMOVE HIM FROM MAIN STREET.
My name is Kelly McClure. I have lived in the County for 8 years, but I have lived all over Canada. Thank
you for allowing me to speak today. I recognize it as a privilege and I recognize that I can speak tonight
I see this statue through the lens of a citizen of this country and community.
By allowing this statue to remain in place we are saying that we DO find it acceptable to erase history.
We know for a fact that JAM attempted to erase the history and culture of Indigenous peoples, not to
mention their mere existence, as well as other marginalized groups. This is called genocide. We had this
knowledge before the statue was installed and it was reinforced again with the events of last year and
certainly with the events of this past week.
These symbols of oppression toppling all over the country: Regina, Charlottetown, Ryerson now known
as University X (I think we would all prefer to avoid a scene like that). This is not even an historical piece
of work that we can explain away with “times were different then”. This statue is only SIX years old.
I see this statue through the lens of an Art History student.
My question from its installation has been, why is Holding Court an acceptable subject for such a visible
piece of work anyway? He is defending himself for public drunkenness…he was an alcoholic (even in the
context of the day). He was a white supremacist. He hung dissenters. These are facts. Not emotions. Is
this someone we should glorify with public art?
So, stop hiding behind the artist and her contract. That is just an excuse. A way to shrug your shoulders
and glide away from responsibility. The feelings of the artist and the existence of a contract are of very
little relevance when you are confronted with the faces of murdered children.
I see this statue through the lens of a mother.
The last time I was downtown with my toddler, he gestured at JAM and asked who it was. I was at a
complete loss for words. Even at two years old I could see his confusion about WHY there would be a
statue of a “mean person” right there on the street. If the statue remains in place, I don’t know how to
explain to him as he gets older why it is there at all.
If the context of this statue ever was acceptable (just for argument’s sake), you must surely have to
admit now, since the horrifying discovery of the 215 murdered children, that the context has changed.
The lens in which this statue is seen has completely changed. You would not install a statue that
physically harms passerby. So, why do you revere one that harms people emotionally? People who are
already traumatized to a degree we will never know and are only beginning to learn about.
If these arguments have no impact then maybe this will: I don’t think tourists will rush to a place that
will become known as being regressive and oppressive. By allowing this statue to remain you are
sending the message that hatred and bigotry are acceptable. And if you don’t care about that, then just
remember this: it’s bad for your brand.
I imagine that you see this statue through the lens of a politician. I imagine that a threat to it may feel
like a personal attack as fellow politicians. I urge you to put your personal feelings aside since you are
servants of the public. The whole public.
You are hurting all of us if you allow this statue to remain in place. Please put the County on the right
side of history. No half measures. You are the ones holding court now. We are all on trial. Thank you.
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