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Council got it right on MacDonald statue

Council got it right on MacDonald statue

Hamilton City Council took the right decision in referring the future of the Sir. John A MacDonald statue to a committee that has been established to study it– along with roughly 200 other named sites, objects, places and streets that may be subject to historical controversy.

The process that was so scornfully blown off by the Hamilton Spectator, and councillors Nann and Wilson was recommended by a staff team headed by Shelly Hill, Manager of Indigenous Relations and herself an indigenous person. Among other things the plan includes the engagement of an indigenous consulting firm to lead the evaluations of the various landmarks and monuments. Before drafting their recommendation Ms. Hill and her team held preliminary conversations with the Aboriginal Advisory Committee, the UIS Coordinating Circle and the Professional Aboriginal Advocacy Networking Group.

The “process,” which in the heat of the moment, has become a dirty word, flows from the City’s Indigenous strategy which was unanimously endorsed by this council in 2019.

The historical review process led by Ms. Hill will, as the report reads, “engage with the Indigenous community and the broader community in order to inform short and long-term opportunities to respectfully and meaningfully address both Indigenous and historical landmarks. This may include the addition of new landmarks and/or the moving or removal of, the re-interpretation of, and/or the renaming of landmarks, in order to support a more equitable, balanced, and inclusive representation of Indigenous histories, contributions in Hamilton, the history of colonialism and residential schools, and a spirit of reconciliation.” Who could possibly object to such a process that tries to put a structure in place to deal in a systematic way with these controversies as they arise? The alternative, as some councillors suggested would be a never-ending series of overheated confrontations at council every time a new historical figure came under scrutiny.

A month before the adoption of the Indigenous strategy in 2019, Garth Bell, who identifies as black and indigenous. described to a council committee his work in conducting restorative justice workshops. These are healing circles where victims and perpetrators are brought together in an effort to bring about true reconciliation. He referred to the process as “bringing people to a good mind.” He warned against a punitive process. He was speaking more about the criminal justice system but the underlying principals apply to the statue controversy. To tear down the statue in question without a collaborative process such as staff recommended, would inflame a large part of the community, and would deepen racial tensions. That is not reconciliation.

Thomas Baker McQuesten, (whose own historical re-reckoning will no doubt come someday,) wrote 90 years ago, ”all classes …equally fail in adhering to a process when it happens to clash with the convenience of the moment.” That applies here. There is a process in place that was developed with a high degree of indigenous involvement. Let it do its work so we can arrive at a means of dealing with confronting our past on a consistent basis.

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  • I have to disagree with your stance on this issue. Ms Hill, I’m assuming works for the city thus cannot represent the broader community. Conflict of interest one could say, employment or her people.

    SJAM’s vision for Canada do not include the indigenous people of turtle island, in any shape or form. It has been indigeous people who have called, written, demanded for the statue to be removed from the public realm.

    Restorative Justice: I have had to deal with this process when I was assaulted at a local organization. I had to research what this meant. So if the community engaged in thus process, even the Supreme Court of Canada would recognize this as a legal proceeding thus eliminates people from pursuing criminal and or civil charges. Seems to be in opposition with the newly elected representative of the Assembly of First Nations People who is calling for reparations.

    Tricky road to follow when not all legal possibilities are out in the public realm.

    Healing or talking circles basically are circles where the talking stick or feather are past around. Not also a good forum when wrongs have occurred and those facilitating the circle use language like, that’s gossip , when you are relaying facts.

    All city council did was to ensure the values that echoed the vision of SJAM which definitely excluded the inherent rights of first nations people to their land, their languages, their culture.

    Colonialism is alive and well in this city. It is very disturbing that council members have more empathy for an inanimate object opposed to the intergenerational trauma that inanimate object brings forward.

    Sorry Mr Best, your opinion on this matter is not what we should be reading or hearing. Your opinion is irrelevant in terms of the greater injustice that the indigenous people have had and are still enduring.

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