LETTER:Council must ensure Working Group serves public interest

Protests against statues of Confederate traitors in the United States that began in early June 2020 re-ignited protests against statues of slave-traders in Europe and John A. Macdonald in Canada.

The intensity and visibility of these protests made it impossible, even for the municipal council of Prince Edward County, to continue to disregard ongoing public concerns about Holding Court on Picton Main Street. And so, a Working Group of the County’s Heritage Advisory Committee has been struck to recommend what, if anything, the Council should do differently about the statue.

Council should take this opportunity to regain the public’s trust. At the very minimum, Council must ensure that every member of the Working Group and the Heritage Advisory Committee is there to serve only the public’s interests, and not the private interests of their friends and themselves. Former members of The Macdonald Project, the unincorporated association that was established in 2010 to promote and raise funds for Holding Court, do not fit the bill. And yet, Council is actively supporting founder of The Macdonald Project, David Warrick, and one of its founding members, Peter Lockyer, to sit on the Working Group and Heritage Advisory Committee, respectively.

No one should judge a contest where their own child or the child of a close relation or friend is competing. Anyone should know and have the common decency to excuse themselves from playing this role in these circumstances. If they don’t, the organizers of the contest need to block them, not let them even appear to bias the proceedings.

No analogy is perfect, but the public consultation about the future of Holding Court in the County is like a contest – a contest between strongly-held differences of opinion about the statue’s place in our community. Mr. Warrick and Mr. Lockyer may see nothing wrong in their playing a role in judging their statue’s place in this competition. They may be used to believing that what’s good for them is naturally good for the County. The public has a right, however, to expect that Council will ensure that the proceedings of the Working Group and the Heritage Advisory Committee are fair and appear to be fair. Accordingly, Council should immediately remove Mr. Warrick from the Working Group and exclude Mr. Lockyer from discussions of the statue at meetings of the Heritage Advisory Committee.

Paul Allen