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Discussion on Macdonald exhibit at Macaulay moved to April

UPDATE MARCH 18: Council’s special committee of the whole meeting to discuss the “A Path Forward” exhibit including the “Holding Court” statue of Sir John A. Macdonald has been moved to April 27 at 6 p.m.

The municipality has moved the meeting to allow staff more time to review and integrate the latest round of feedback with proposed partners. This municipality will also broker discussions between potential partner organizations and continue local consultations that are to include meeting with members of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte.

The proposed exhibit would include the “Holding Court” sculpture of Sir John A. Macdonald as part of a permanent exhibit at Macaulay Church, developed in partnership with the Tsi Tyónnheht Onkwawén:na (TTO) Language and Cultural Centre and the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund. Details of the proposal can be found on The County’s Have Your Say engagement site.

The public continues to have the opportunity to offer feedback on the plan through Have Your Say until Monday, April 18. Staff have updated the site with answers to frequently-asked questions that have been posed by the public.

To make a deputation at the Special Meeting of Committee of the Whole, email clerks@pecounty.on.ca by April 19. To register to make a comment from the audience, email by noon on April 27.

The meeting is to take place at Highline Hall in the Wellington and District Community Centre (111 Belleville St, Wellington). Members of the public may attend in person, or watch the live stream on The County’s YouTube channel.

Feedback or questions can also be sent to Chris Palmer, Supervisor of Museums and Cultural Services, by email at cpalmer@pecounty.on.ca or by calling 613.476.2148 extension 2521.

JAN. 13: Consultation on a proposal to relocate the Sir John A. Macdonald “Holding Court” sculpture to the Macaulay museum in Picton will take place over the next several weeks. It was removed from in front of the library on Main Street Picton and placed in storage in June 2021.

The bronze portrait depicts a 19-year-old Macdonald winning his first court case in Picton. Canada’s first prime minister was once a resident of Prince Edward County. The sculpture was commissioned by The Macdonald Group and created by Canadian artist Ruth Abernethy to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth. It was unveiled in 2015.

The portrait was in storage once before between its relocation from the Armoury Mall next door. Its return in 2020 was a catalyst for conversation about about Macdonald’s complex legacy, within the broader context of colonialism. The sculpture was vandalized in multiple instances.

“We are pleased to see progress being made by staff members on this important issue,” said Mayor Steve Ferguson. “They took the time to thoughtfully consider the comments offered at previous special council meetings. In the coming weeks, we look forward to hearing from the public as we continue to work toward finalizing a plan for the future of the Holding Court sculpture that the community can support.”

The staff proposal suggests the sculpture would be part of a permanent exhibit exploring the local community’s reckoning with the national tragedy of the Indian Residential School system. The plan is informed by deputations made at special council meetings in November 2020 and June 2021.

Council has directed staff to begin consultation with first with key stakeholders including members of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, the Macdonald Project and members of the Holding Court Working Group that examined ideas for the future of the sculpture in 2020, as well as artist Abernathy.

Following, staff is to seek feedback from the broader public, including in-person engagement opportunities (within COVID-19 health protocols).

County staff is charged with finalizing a plan to go to council for final approval by March 31, 2022. The goal is to launch the exhibit in the summer of 2022.

People with questions are directed to contact Chris Palmer, Supervisor of Museums and Cultural Services, at 613.476.2148 extension 2521 or email cpalmer@pecounty.on.ca.

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  1. SS says:

    Suggest that you make sure to read and understand all of the terms on the County’s Have Your Say Web site, before you agree to them:

    https://haveyoursay.thecounty.ca/terms

  2. Henri Garand says:

    I think council shares everyone’s weariness with this issue and is therefore eager to sidestep the historical debate. Nevertheless, my op ed (“A Path Forward” or Appropriation of the Holding Court Statue) in the March 16th Wellington Times questions the focus, purpose, and scale of such an exhibit.

    I understand, however, why this proposed exhibit is coming before council. It relies on expertise and knowledge that county museum staff may not have, it is cost effective, and it probably precludes further criticism and protest.

    But there are problems in essentially turning over the exhibit to non-County organizations. It commits a large amount of museum space to a topic that’s not a big part of country history, it establishes a precedent for other groups to request exhibits, and it may prove difficult to reclaim the space or revise the exhibits in the future. Short-term gains may well lead to long-term problems unless they are addressed in a tight contract.

    Though council may wish to wrap up this matter expeditiously, it really should consider all the implications.

    Besides commenting on countylive, interested county residents should also express their views on the County’s Have Your Say webpage so council can gauge public support accurately.

  3. Mark says:

    You build a Country and people doubt your worth in a Museum. We are so privileged for a Nation that cannot defend it’s borders in any manner.

  4. Chuck says:

    We all get a recorded vote in October.

  5. ADJ says:

    I agree Paul…but like every other decision Council has to make they over study it to death. Trying to please everybody? Personally I don’t see the reason to place him in a museum but there could be a hidden agenda here.What’s the cost to visit this museum? hmm? This is such a hot topic I hope there is a recorded vote. Was there for the Lake on the Mountain debacle?

  6. angela says:

    Will it never end? Whatever the solution chosen there will be opposition. Just make a decision for once. There are more important issues to think about these days.

  7. Paul D Cole says:

    Just get something done with the statue Council why cause more division amongst County Residents. You have multiple recommendation already and Have Your Say questionnaires its like whipping a dead horse already…

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