Statue project unveiled at WLU

Waterloo campus incorporates Prime Minister Statue Project after initial proposal for Kitchener’s Victoria Park was rejected by city councils

Photo by Jessica Dik
Photo by Jessica Dik

Wilfrid Laurier University unveiled a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald at their Waterloo campus on June 30, the first in the Prime Minister Statues Project to be erected over the coming years.

The project, begun by Dave Caputo, chief executive officer of the networking equipment company, Sandvine, and Jim Rodger, was initially proposed for Kitchener’s Victoria Park.

The project was rejected by city council amid criticism over cost and subject matter.

“The people, Dave Caputo and Jim Rodger, who are the spark-plugs behind this initiative, gave me a call and said they were trying to locate the statues, and were wondering if the university had any interest,” said Laurier president Max Blouw.

The university is confident that incorporating the statues into the campus’ landscape will benefit not only students and staff, but the larger community as well.

“Providing a home for the statues at our university, we believe that we can foster a more complete and open discussion about our history and even a deeper shared appreciation of our background,” Blouw said. “We felt it was appropriate that the university be the home for this kind of historical expression.”

However not everyone seemed quite as welcoming of the project, with much criticism expressed both online and at the unveiling.

“I don’t really feel that it represents our community of Kitchener-Waterloo, and that it doesn’t really represent Wilfrid Laurier University either,” said Elliot Worsfold, a PhD candidate in Western University’s history department, who spoke of his concerns at the unveiling.

“I’m hesitant to believe that their goal is to promote conversation when their plan is to erect a statue of every single prime minister, which to me shows a severe lack of critical thinking involved.”

Despite the project’s name, Laurier said they are open to expanding the planned line-up and are hoping to use the statues to promote the campus as a centre of knowledge for all.

“We’re certainly wide open to extending the entire project, adding to it important additional national figures,” Blouw said. “It’s certainly not intended to be an exclusive ‘prime ministers only’ kind of project.”

Many are still hesitant to believe the university will take steps to broaden the project’s representation.

“I had to say something because otherwise they would continue to replicate this very white-washed version of Canadian history, which I don’t think is accurate and I don’t think represents us as a community,” said Worsfold.

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