The City of Victoria is committed to Reconciliation with the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations.
To that end the City has embarked on a Witness Reconciliation Program. This program reflects the City’s intention to act on its commitment to Reconciliation with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations.
This work will be done with integrity, an open heart, and a willingness to work in diverse ways and take the time needed.
Through an agile and evolving process, together, we will work to make the culture, history, and modern reality of local Indigenous Peoples become present and apparent throughout the city, and valued in our residents' everyday lives. We will build and nurture strong relationships with the Songhees and Esquimalt Peoples that thrive in times of harmony and endure times of strife. As a city, we are committed to this work, in alliance with our Indigenous Partners.
Through this Program, the City will hold fast to the Principles of Reconciliation and will follow a process that will create and use relationships as a foundation for the work together. The process will be fluid, flexible, adaptable and foster a long-term relationship between the City and our Indigenous Partners.
Witness Reconciliation Program
The Witness Reconciliation Program brings together traditional Indigenous Witnesses from both the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations' Councils, and a City Family, comprised of a combination of City Council members, appointees from the Nations, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous community appointees, and two City staff members as support for the Program.
In coming together, the City Family will work with an Indigenous Speaker who will recount the ideas brought forward by the City Family for the consideration of the Witnesses. After each Witness Ceremony is complete, and the advice of the Witnesses is offered and heard, the City Family will facilitate the actions needed to realize the ideas endorsed by the Witnesses. Subsequent Witness Ceremonies will provide an opportunity to reflect on the actions done, as well as look forward to future actions.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's (TRC's) Calls to Action, located on page 319 of the Summary of the Report, will provide context and a framework for the Witness Reconciliation program, its participants and its work.
The Witness Reconciliation Program will consider how the City might respond to the five recommendations highlighted by the TRC for attention by municipalities but will also work in the broadest manner to realize, on a local scale, the TRC's mandate to tell Canadians what happened in the Indian Residential Schools, create a permanent record of what happened in the Indian Residential Schools, and foster healing and reconciliation within Canada.
At this time, the City Family consists of Mayor Lisa Helps, Councillor Marianne Alto, Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe, Brianna Dick, Katie Hooper, Carey Newman, Janice Simcoe, Thomas Soulliere and Colleen Mycroft.
The first Witness Ceremony took place on June 16, 2017 at the Royal BC Museum, timed with the start of the Aboriginal Cultural Festival.
Background and Updates
Sir John A. Macdonald Statue
In 2017, the City of Victoria began a journey of Truth and Reconciliation with the Lekwungen peoples, the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, on whose homeland the city stands. City Council created the Witness Reconciliation Program and appointed a City Family made up of members of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, other urban Indigenous people, the Mayor and select City Council members.
Following a year long process of deliberation, conversation and truth-sharing, the City Family determined that to show progress on the path of reconciliation the City should remove the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald from the front doors of City Hall, while the City, the Nations and the wider community grapple with Macdonald’s complex history as both the first Prime Minister of Canada and also the architect of the residential school system, the painful legacies of which are still felt today.
The statue was removed on August 11, 2018, and is stored safely in a city facility. A plaque explaining the removal of the statue will stand in its place in front of City Hall. The plaque reads:
“In 2017, the City of Victoria began a journey of Truth and Reconciliation with the Lekwungen peoples, the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, on whose territories the city stands.
The members of the City Family – part of the City’s Witness Reconciliation Program – have determined that to show progress on the path of reconciliation the City should remove the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald from the front doors of City Hall, while the City, the Nations and the wider community grapple with Macdonald’s complex history as both the first Prime Minister of Canada and a leader of violence against Indigenous Peoples.
The statue is being stored safely in a city facility. We will keep the public informed as the Witness Reconciliation Program unfolds, and as we find a way to recontextualize Macdonald in an appropriate way. For more information please visit www.victoria.ca/reconciliation"
This important step on the path of reconciliation will ensure that family members and other Indigenous people do not need to walk past this painful reminder of colonial violence each time they enter the doors of their municipal government. The removal of the statue from the front steps of City Hall will enable a wider community conversation to unfold about how, where and in what context the statue could be re-situated in a way that tells a broader and more complex version of Canada’s history.
The public will be kept informed as the Witness Reconciliation Program unfolds, and as we work together as a community to recontextualize Macdonald in an appropriate way.
To view the discussion that took place at the August 9, 2018 meeting of Council visit: https://www.victoria.ca/EN/main/city/mayor-council-committees/council-committee-meetings.html
- Councillor Motion: Witness Reconciliation Family Appointments, June 15, 2017
- Committee Remuneration Policy [PDF - 848 KB]
- Sir John A MacDonald Statue Removal - Costs [PDF - 511 KB]
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