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'History matters': Ontario requested Macdonald statue from Victoria, B.C.

The statue of Sir John A. MacDonald at Queen's Park in Toronto in Aug. 9, 2018. CITYNEWS/Craig Wadman

Ontario’s minister of tourism, culture and sport says the provincial government would be “happy” to take Sir John A. Macdonald’s statue from Victoria, B.C.

“Sir John A. Macdonald plays a central role in our national story. He did more to found our nation than any other father of Confederation,” Sylvia Jones said at legislature on Monday.

“That’s why our government wrote the mayor of Victoria to say we’d be happy to give Sir John A. a new home here in Ontario.”

However, the city of Victoria has already said no and will be leaving it in storage.

Last week, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said the statue of Canada’s first prime minister would be removed from the front entrance of Victoria City Hall as a gesture of reconciliation with First Nations.

Helps said he was a “key architect” of the residential school system and that his statue is a “painful” reminder of colonialism.

The mayor had previously said while the statue is in storage, the city will continue a dialogue about how to tell a more complete story about Macdonald’s history that both celebrates his contributions as the country’s first prime minister at the same time as acknowledging the harm he caused.

However, Jones had said that while Macdonald’s role in Canadian history is a “cause for much discussion,” Canadians cannot ignore the role he played in founding the country.

“History matters, and we need to acknowledge the important role Sir. John A. Macdonald played in Canada and Ontario’s history,” she said.

“History is complicated, people are complicated. But there is no doubt that 125 years ago after his death, our first prime minister stands as an important Canadian within the creation of our country.”

Jones also said the government encourages Ontarians to learn more about Macdonald by visiting his statues around the country, including the one on the grounds of Queen’s Park.

Victoria isn’t the only government or institution reviewing its celebration of Macdonald. In August, an elementary teachers’ union in Ontario issued a call to remove his name from schools in the province. And in May, the Canadian Historical Association voted to strip Macdonald’s name from one of its top writing prizes.

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John A. Macdonald statue ‘painful reminder’ of colonialism: Victoria mayor