Supporters of the statue of Macdonald Holding Court have made repeated claims for its historical authenticity, its value as a teaching aid, and its potential to support the reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. There’s good reason to question all of these claims.
In November 2019, Councillor Bill Roberts (Council Meeting, November 26, 2019) dismissed calls for public consultation before the County re-installed Holding Court on Picton Main Street. Councillor Roberts opposed what he called “sanitizing history” and argued for “engaging in conversation and dialogue around those pivot points in history that deserve more scrutiny, and deserve more challenge, rather than trying to remove selectively parts of hour history. I think that’s a very valid consideration in re-installing the statue. Let’s use those artifacts, which are true history.”
In January 2020, County personality Peter Lockyer (Global News Kingston television interview, January 3, 2020) repeated the claim that “[Macdonald] had his very first court case here in October 1834 and that’s what this statue actually represents: that first court case which is very historic. … My own personal point of view, as a member of the committee that created the sculpture, is that we’re missing a tremendous learning opportunity by suggesting that we take it away or we don’t talk about John A. Macdonald anymore.”
On July 16, 2020, The Picton Gazette published my letter refuting claims for the statue’s historical authenticity. The truth is, there’s no evidence the scene depicted ever happened. Since then, The Picton Gazette has published a letter from The Macdonald Project’s founder, David Warrick, who didn’t care to defend the statue’s reputation. Mr. Warrick, instead, was more interested in positioning himself to greatest advantage in the upcoming review of the statue’s future, insisting “allegations made against Macdonald need to be challenged as if in a court of law with rules of evidence.”
So, I’d pose two challenges to Mr. Warrick: One, identify a single leading historian who agrees with your legalistic approach to historical inquiry.
Two, explain how you’d demonstrate the truthfulness of your claims for the statue “as if in a court of law with rules of evidence.”