Working group votes Macdonald statue should hold court in storage

Holding Court. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette Staff)



The municipal working group tasked this past July with determining the fate of the prominent-and contentious- statue Holding Court, which depicts a young Sir John A Macdonald, has voted to remove the statue from Picton Main Street. Reportedly, the vote in favour of removing was not a close one.

The working group is recommending that the statue be placed in storage, as opposed to being modified, relocated, replaced or kept as-is.

The group was created after acts of vandalism, such as dousing Macdonald in red paint from head to toe, were perpetrated several months ago.

Since then, the group has received deputations to help decide the fate of the statue along with various communications from interested parties.

Holding Court was presented to the County by The Macdonald Project who commissioned Ruth Abernethy to sculpt the bronze statue. The local interest group has asserted their intention in producing the statue was to draw attention to Macdonald’s early life spent as a lawyer in Picton.

According to the Macdonald Project’s website, funding for the statue was made possible by the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage, as well as contributions from the Parrott Foundation, the Albany Club of Toronto, donations from friends of John A. Macdonald, the volunteers behind the Lazier Trial Re-enactment fundraiser, especially Justice Robert Sharpe, Justice Byers and Peter Lockyer.

Since 2015, many of Macdonald’s more heinous acts have come to the attention of the public, resulting in the removal of statues that depict him and the renaming of institutions across the country.

According to the municipality, the goals and purpose of the working group are:

  • Follow the scope of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 10 Principles of Truth and Reconciliation.
  • Conduct research, carry out surveys and prepare documentation, as necessary, to assist the Heritage Advisory Committee in their recommendation to assist Council in their decision on the future of “The Holding Court” John A. Macdonald statue.
  • Assist staff to provide a report to Council by September 1, 2020, or as soon as feasible, outlining a recommendation for the future of the “Holding Court” John A. Macdonald statue.

As outlined in their terms of reference, membership includes:

  • Two (2), or more Heritage Advisory Committee Member(s). The Chair of the Working Group will be a member of the Prince Edward Heritage Advisory Committee.
  • A representative(s) of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte
  • A representative(s) of All Welcome Here
  • A public representative determined by the Prince Edward Heritage Advisory Committee.
  • A representative of the Sir John A. Macdonald Project
  • A representative of the Museum Advisory committee member

According to Judith Burfoot, founder of All Welcome Here and working group member, several aspects of Haudenosaunee law were considered as part of their recommendation.

Part of our criteria for recommendation is the three main principles of Haudenosaunee law: Ka’nikonh’ri:io (commitment, respect and responsibility), Skénnenkowa (the ability to resolve issues, love, and gratitude), and Ka’satsténhsera (generosity and collective thinking),” she wrote.

For the statue to be removed, the working group’s recommendation has to be accepted by the Prince Edward Heritage Advisory Committee (PEHAC) at their October 27th meeting.

Burfoot noted that three members of PEHAC are also part of the working group having made the recommendation.

After PEHAC has assessed the situation, the matter will go before council during a Special Council Meeting scheduled for November 17th.

Should all agree with the working group’s recommendation, it appears Macdonald may be “holding court” in storage for the foreseeable future.