A small media conference was held at Bellevue House Wednesday morning for a funding announcement.
Bellevue House is a former home of Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. MacDonald. The home, designed in the style of an Italian villa, has been closed while restoration work takes place.
The electrical system is being upgraded, the roof is being repaired and Parks Canada representative Katherine Patterson says the house’s plaster ceiling is being restored as well.
“The inside ceilings, while in good condition, what holds the plaster to those lathe strips was critically imperiled,” Patterson said.
The entire project will cost $2.13M.
$1.03M of that funding was announced in 2016, and today, Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretson announced the remaining $1.1M is now in the hands of Parks Canada.
Parks Canada is working towards a more complete telling of MacDonald’s legacy.
While at the media event, Gerretson said it’s time for a more holistic approach to telling the history of MacDonald.
“The reality is there were a lot of people, in particular Indigenous people, that suffered a lot of hardships and a lot of struggle as a result of the decisions that were made at that time,” Gerretsen said.
Patterson says some of that reconciliation work began in 2017 with the Many Voices of Confederation exhibit.
“We had an installation for Indigenous art for the whole summer, including some beautiful wraparounds of the whole building, some controversial pieces in the visitor centre.”
Parks Canada at Bellevue House in that time touched on issues like residential schools, starvation policies, the Chinese head tax and Japanese internment camps.
The efforts to address some of Canada’s sometimes troubling history continues, with Patterson saying consultation with Indigenous peoples and groups is ongoing.
“We haven’t done all of the end point consultations that we want to do but we’re in regular discussions [with] the Mohawk of Tyendenaga, the Mohawk of Akwesasne,” Patterson explained.
Patterson says they’ve also had poets and Indigenous speakers come to Bellevue House to share their knowledge and experiences.
The grounds around Bellevue House continue to be open to the public but the house itself isn’t expected to open again until 2020.
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