Decision on future of Prime Ministers Path project in Wilmot Township deferred to March

A decision on the next steps for the Prime Ministers Path project has been deferred to March as Wilmot Township councillors asked staff to come back with more information on one of the options they were being asked to consider.

At a council meeting Monday night, councillors were presented with three options to determine the future of the project. It was paused in 2020 after the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald was repeatedly doused in red paint. 

“This conversation has grown a lot bigger than what it initially was,” Wilmot Mayor Natasha Salonen said during the council meeting.

She said the discovery of human remains at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., in 2021 along with the red paint being thrown on the Macdonald statue “opened up an avenue and brought a perspective that I would say many of us, and certainly speaking for myself, were not aware of.” 

Salonen added she learned through conversations with Wilmot residents and beyond that the Prime Ministers Path has impacted members outside the Indigenous community.

“An example that I still find very fascinating that someone brought up to me was about William Lyon Mackenzie King — and this was from someone who happens to be Jewish — that he and his government at the time were responsible for not a single Jewish refugee being let into Canada, even though we knew prior to World War Two the persecution they were facing,” she said.

From 1933 to 1945, only about 5,000 Jewish refugees were accepted in Canada because of the country’s discriminatory “none is too many” immigration policy. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized in the House of Commons in 2018 for the decision by the Canadian government in 1939 to turn away the MS St. Louis, which left Germany carrying 907 Jewish passengers fleeing persecution by the Nazi regime. 

3 options for consideration

Staff presented three options to council during Monday’s meeting:

  • To continue with the direction council agreed to in July 2021 to create a working group to develop and suggest plans for next steps focused on healing and engaging with Indigenous communities.
  • A focus on assessing community support for establishing a working group or to explore options for community engagement and decision making. The staff report said feedback from the engagement process done by the First People’s Group was not considered to be sufficient and the final report did not reflect the diverse views and opinions of the community.
  • Possibly holding a referendum that would allow Wilmot residents to vote on the future of the the Prime Ministers Path.

Chief administrative officer Sharon Chambers told council that existing funding is available to cover the costs for options one and two, which could be anywhere from $45,000 to $60,000.

“The total funding available at this time is $116,000 and that includes the Canada Heritage Multicultural program grant of $45,000,” she said.

The referendum option would cost the township anywhere from $116,000 to $163,000, Chambers said.

After lengthy discussion, councillors ultimately voted on an amendment asking township staff to come back with more details and information on option two before moving forward with a decision.

That information is expected to come back to council March 25. Council also voted to move the statues from storage to township property to save on costs.


Posted in CBC