Council for the County of Prince Edward voted last night to remove the Sir John A. Macdonald statue “Holding Court” from Picton Main Street.
The municipality has placed the statue in storage temporarily while discussions take place to determine a future public location for the statue. Council directed staff to hold discussions with stakeholders, including artist Ruth Abernathy and the statue donors, and to also invite input from Indigenous peoples.
Council previously voted in November 2020 to leave the statue on Picton Main Street and explore additional messaging to encourage public discussion and education. The messaging would serve to complement the “Holding Court” statue, which a group of private citizens commissioned in early 2010 to connect Canadians to their past and the early history of Prince Edward County while commemorating the 200th anniversary of Macdonald’s birth in 2015.
“We want to be respectful and ensure our collective learning does not cause additional pain and hardship for those experiencing intergenerational trauma as a result of this legacy. The public should have the choice to engage with the statue, which is not really possible with its location in the middle of our biggest town,” Mayor Steve Ferguson says. “It is my hope that with this controversial symbol removed from Picton Main Street, we can begin the process of bringing together our polarized community.”
County Council arrived at the decision during a special meeting, where nearly 40 members of the public offered their comments. Council gave staff until March 31, 2022 to explore a suitable public location for the statue.
“The horrific discovery in Kamloops last week gave Council pause as we were once again reminded of the troubling reality of our history. And we will continue to confront this horrible truth as burial grounds like the one at the former residential school continue to come to light,” Mayor Ferguson says. “We express our sympathies to the Indigenous communities who are grieving, and to the survivors of residential schools and their relations.”
The County is committed to the process of reconciliation and creating respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in the community. A number of initiatives are underway as part of this work, including efforts to return Foresters Island to the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, enhanced consultation with First Nations communities on planning decisions, Indigenous training for councillors, and a revision of the Traditional Land Acknowledgement Statement.
The national Indian Residential School Crisis Line (1.866.925.4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.
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