Let's do what is right, not what is easiest
I would like to outline five reasons why the Macdonald statue on Picton’s Main street needs to be removed and, at least, relocated to within a museum space or inside the courthouse with additional information to provide context of Macdonald’s racist policies.
First, and I had raised this objection to the statue when it was originally erected, the creation of the statue as a piece of public art was never approved or decided upon in a democratic way with input from our community. Had that happened, we might not be where we are, spending countless hours and energy on what needs to be done.
Secondly, this statue is deeply offensive to many people, grossly disrespectful in light of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report and to Indigenous peoples. It is also offensive to many non-indigenous people. Many of us are striving to recognize and work toward a decolonization mindset, a path to healing all the wrongs, and the removal of statues of those who historically contributed to the theft of land and intergenerational trauma is the least we can do.
Thirdly, the argument that he was the first Prime Minister and spent some time in Prince Edward County is so shallow in its view that it is both beyond understanding and deeply troubling. The horrific policies enacted by Macdonald, well recorded by experts and dedicated historians, should easily be enough to admit that his racism, and the genocide he upheld, make a statue of him on our Main Street unacceptable to anyone who has the decency to admit and take seriously those realities. We must work towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and confront our own biases and white supremacy with actions that are meaningful. Removal of this statue would be a first step.
Additionally, I make two more points and these are more questions we should ask ourselves.
Why do some people equate removal of a statue with erasing history? Any thinking person can see and understand that the removal of a statue does not erase history. It cannot. But the insistence of keeping a statue that reveres - and yes, statues are built of people said to be admired - a man who was the architect of so much injustice, is to make a conscious decision to deny the harms, or if not deny them, to diminish and trivialize them. The often quoted “he was a man of his time” doesn’t hold water. Racism then was no different than racism now. Unacceptable and deplorable.
And the last question we need to ask is: who are we as a community? Are we apologists for historical wrongs, more interested in keeping a statue because a group of people don’t want change, don’t want to confront the reality of what the statue represents, and it’s just easier to put up a plaque to soften the injustices? Or are we a progressive, courageous, caring community?
Let’s not do what is simply easier, what might be uncomfortable as we face our past and white fragility. Let’s instead do what’s right. Remove the Macdonald statue from Main street.