I understand that the Macdonald statue on Main Street is – again – attracting considerable debate.
And I think we are all in danger of missing the main point of the conflict: both sides are correct in many of their assumptions. Macdonald and his fellow politicians of that age (Conservative and at times Liberal) achieved their core goal: they prevented the lands now called “Canada” from becoming part of the United States of America. Over time they created a separate country that stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific (and Arctic) Oceans. To do that they – essentially – plundered huge tracts of Indigenous land, and completely ignored the horrendous human cost, which they – incredible as it now seems – appeared to see as insignificant. If they did think about it, it looks as if they saw the ends as justifying the means.
The argument about Macdonald and, locally, the Macdonald statue, could perhaps go on indefinitely. But I believe the time for arguing is over – it is time to act. But what can /should be done?
The Federal and Provincial Governments must know perfectly well what is wrong within their jurisdictions, and what has to be fixed. There have been enough studies and reports: now act. In many cases, these actions will have a direct local effect. Wherever this is the case, then any action must result from a partnership between the governments/bodies involved.
In the case of the Macdonald statue in Picton, the provincial and local governments are both directly involved and any action must reflect that. As a partner In this process, the Municipality of Prince Edward County is ideally positioned to work with the Province to show just how to tackle this kind of problem. It appears to me that the first step in this work is to agree to remove the statue from Picton Main Street. Wherever its interim location, it appears logical to consider very carefully its ultimate move, which I personally believe should be to the historic, Provincial Courthouse, the Courthouse where Macdonald first practiced law.
But prior to any such move, the joint provincial /municipal task force must establish a team of historians to develop a serious exhibit, detailing in equal measure the enormous accomplishments of that time – and the terrible human costs of those actions, particularly to indigenous peoples, and also to the Chinese indentured workforce. The only standard that all that work must meet is this: it must honestly respect the realities of the past to the very best of our present abilities. I should add that there are various places in and around the Courthouse that appear perfectly suited to this kind of more detailed exhibit.
In taking this step, I sincerely hope Picton can become a model for us all in helping create a more open and honest understanding of our past – and of each other.
Mary Lazier Corbett