Kingston cemetery board has 'no timetable' for fate of Sir John A Macdonald statue

Board chair says it could take a while to determine the fate of the Macdonald statue at Cataraqui Cemetery.

When the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald was removed from Kingston’s City Park last month, it was suggested that it could eventually end up at Cataraqui Cemetery, where Canada’s first prime minister and the architect of the residential school system is buried.

The cemetery board of trustees agreed to the idea in principle but not without Indigenous consultation, says board chair Gus Panageotopoulos.

“Yes, that is still the case — that is based on us having consultation with the Indigenous community which will be facilitated by the city of Kingston.”

According to Panageotopoulos, that consultation is crucial.

“I think it’s essential. We can’t go forward with not having a broad consultation with the Indigenous community to talk about the statue and the role it has.”

For Carol Ann Budd, an Anishnaabe Kwe who has served as a mentor and role model for Indigenous youth consultation, the approach makes a lot of sense.

“There are diverse members of the community and there will be lots of good thoughts shared. Not everyone may agree but I think bringing all the minds together will bring forward the best path forward by allowing all voices to be heard.”

Just over a month ago, the city of Kingston removed the century-old monument. It’s been in storage ever since. The dismantling of the pedestal took place just a few days ago.

But why would the cemetery even want the statue? Panageotopoulos says there are a number of reasons.

“The statue is a significant artifact within the community. Take the politics out of it, (and) it’s a piece of sculpture, a piece of artwork. We also believe that tearing it down and hiding it is not going to provide any resolution other than an immediate sense of accomplishment for some people.”

Panageotopoulos feels it could also be a fairly lengthy process, considering the ongoing discovery of unmarked graves found at residential schools.

“No there is no timetable at this point. I’ve told the mayor at this moment, I don’t think trying to facilitate dialogue would be beneficial because the climate is too emotionally charged in order to have effective dialogue.”

Budd agrees there is no need to rush.

“Many Canadians of all denominations have very heavy hearts right now and I think we have to do our grieving and come to terms with that. And the matter of the statue, maybe, is not as urgent as what we’re going through right now.”

Kingston city staff are expected to report back to council on Aug. 10 with details on the future engagement around the statue’s installation and for public input on what should go in place of the statue’s previous location in City Park.

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