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Queen Victoria statue consultation wraps up first stage with City of Kitchener

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The City of Kitchener says they have wrapped up the first phase of consultation regarding a controversial statue in a public park.

The repeated vandalism of the Queen's Statue in Victoria Park prompted the city to launch a community engagement campaign in the fall to consider the statue's future.

The plan outlined four events being mediated by placemaker and author Jay Pitter. One event was done through Instagram live and was followed by an in-person witnessing circle in November.

Two further sessions were planned for early 2023.

The city is now temporarily pausing engagement, plans to gather feedback from participants on the process so far, and says that Pitter's portion of the process has been completed.

“She's provided really valuable advice through the process, but part of the recommendation was to really engage in local facilitators to make sure we have that local dialogue as we move forward with the final recommendation,” said Justin Readman, the City of Kitchener’s general manager of development services.

The city adds that Pitter introduced the witnessing circle to get different perspectives from the community and also outlined a safer small table engagement approach to get more feedback.

Phase two of the consultation plan will move more slowly, as advised by Pitter, and be led by local community engagement facilitators.

The focus of the next phase will be to centre the voices of Indigenous, Black, and racialized community members.

Two more public engagement sessions will be held before a recommendation goes to council.

A date for those public meetings has not been set.

Consultations and an eventual decision on the statue's fate was anticipated to take about a year and cost between $15,000 to $30,000.

“We've been acting very fluid throughout the whole project,” said Readman. “We want to be reactive and nimble to understand the best needs and the best ways to make sure that we are able to consult and engage with the community as we move forward with a recommendation that people can find something to be part of because we know that we are not going to find a solution that satisfies everyone in this process.”

INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY RESPONDS

Some local members of the Indigenous community who have been very active in the project shared a statement with CTV News on Tuesday that said in part:

"We appreciated working with Jay Pitter, and although this ‘pause’ was unanticipated, we are committed to continuing conversations about the future of the Queen Victoria Statue. We are eager to continue working with the City of Kitchener on this initiative and await their announcement on next steps," said the statement from those with the Land Back Camp.

A CONTROVERSIAL PAST

The statue has been vandalized and covered in red paint several times over the years. It happened for the fourth time at the end of May 2022.

The city told CTV News the last time it cleaned paint off the statue on May 16, it cost $5,000.

Multiple calls have been made to remove the statue due to its connection with Canada’s colonialist past.

"We're idolizing these colonial figures that built this country off of the backs and blood of Indigenous people and Black folks as well," Amy Smoke, co-founder of Land Back Camp and a member of Mohawk Nation, Turtle Clan from the Six Nations of the Grand River told CTV News in May.

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