Originally intended to honor 150 years of Confederation, the Wilmot Township Premiers’ Path project was fraught with controversy for nearly a decade.
On Monday evening, the board is expected to vote on a recommendation from the First Peoples Group that the project should be scrapped altogether.
The group’s report calls for the four remaining statues to be removed and for the council to stop any further expansion.
Here is a timeline of the controversial story of the Prime Ministers’ Path.
In 2013, a group of private citizens raised funds in hopes of seeing 22 former prime ministers cast in bronze stand together somewhere in Waterloo region.
Kitchener’s Victoria Park was the first potential home, but city council rejected the idea after hearing strong opposition.
The Waterloo campus of Wilfrid Laurier University offers to host the statues. A few months later, the university backed down and removed the statue of Sir John A. MacDonald after a petition highlighting his role in the formation of residential schools gained traction.
“Erecting bronze statues of people basically celebrates them, rather than trying to provoke dialogue or anything,” said Professor Laurier Jonathan Finn, who started the petition. “So it seemed like a pure celebration of prime ministers, which seems 20 to 30 years old to me.”
Wilmot’s council unanimously approved the installation of what would ultimately be 22 statues in front of Kilbride Castle in Baden, calling it the Prime Ministers’ Path.
The decision was taken without public consultation. Mayor Les Armstrong said the public was not approached because the township was not paying anything, simply offering a space.
At the time, the project coordinator said the full-scale figures were always meant to highlight both the positive and the negative story.
“We want to look not only at our Prime Ministers, but also at the successes and failures of our country and how that influences us all as we look to the future,” said Jim Rodger, then coordinator of the Prime Ministers Pathway Project, in 2016. .
That year the first statue, of Sir John A. MacDonald, was installed.
Three other statues were installed in 2017. They were Sir Robert Borden, William L. Mackenzie King and Lester B. Pearson.
A statue of Kim Campbell has been installed on the Premiers’ Path.
In the spring, the statue of Sir John A. MacDonald was covered in red paint and accompanied by summer sit-ins.
In July 2020, council voted to begin a public engagement process on the project. First Peoples Group was retained to design and lead the engagement strategy.
In the fall, council voted to remove the Sir John A. MacDonald statue and store it.
Four additional statues were due to be installed in 2020, including John Abbott, John Thompson, Mackenzie Bowell and Charles Tupper, but have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They were again postponed following a review of the project.
First Peoples Group complied with a report following the public consultation process.
“Based on what we’ve heard, First Peoples Group advises Wilmot Township Council to consider immediately removing the existing statues related to the Prime Ministers’ Path and to halt any future expansion or investment in the Premier’s Path. prime ministers as they exist today, ”reads the group’s recommendation.