National Newswatch

A statue of Sir John A. Macdonald will be removed from a park in his hometown of Kingston, Ont., while his name will be taken off a local school.

Kingston's city council voted this week to take the statue from City Park, place it temporarily in storage, and eventually put it up in Kingston Cataraqui Cemetery where Canada's first prime minister is buried.

Mayor Bryan Paterson says it was a difficult decision on a topic that has divided the community.

He says the statue will be removed on Friday.

Macdonald is considered an architect of the country's notorious residential school system that took Indigenous children from the families in an effort to assimilate them.

Paterson says the statue's move is a compromise that will not appease everyone.

"The hope is that with this compromise we signal to the community, one with very divergent views on this matter, that we're committed to continued dialogue about the legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald in Kingston," he said in a statement.

"We recognize the pain that the statue inflicts on the Indigenous community in its current location, we understand the legacy of Sir John A. is complex, and we want to move forward in a way that encourages community, conversation, healing, and education towards the shared path of reconciliation."

Calls to remove the statue and rename a local school have grown steadily in recent years.

Those calls came again after the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc Nation announced last month the discovery of the suspected remains of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.

In addition to the Kingston council's decision on the statue on Wednesday, a school board in the area voted unanimously this week to rename École Sir John A. Macdonald Public School.

The Limestone District School Board said Macdonald's name will be removed from the school by the end of the month and it will become known as École Kingston East Elementary School in the interim.

The school's renaming process will begin in September, the board said.

"The board of trustees acknowledges the ongoing pain and harm related to the use of that name within our school communities but particularly with Indigenous members," board chair Suzanne Ruttan said in a statement.

"Removing the current name at the end of the school year is a timely way to begin the healing process while planning for meaningful consultation with the Indigenous community, students, families and staff."

The final report from the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission detailed the mistreatment at Canada's residential schools, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse, and found there had been more than 4,000 deaths at the institutions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 17, 2021.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

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