City of Kitchener presses pause on Queen Victoria statue consultations (update)
So far, one virtual and one in-person engagement session have been held on the future of the contentious monument
The City of Kitchener is temporarily pausing public engagement opportunities on the future of the Queen Victoria statue in Victoria Park.
In a release issued Monday, The City of Kitchener announced that phase one of its feedback strategy is now complete and staff will be taking time to evaluate the work and their findings before proceeding with phase two.
Jay Pitter of Jay Pitter Placemaking was onboarded this past fall to help with the consultations, but the city said her work on the project has wrapped up.
“The City’s next steps on the project will include gathering feedback from participants on the process to date and preparing the next phase of engagement,” read a statement from the City of Kitchener. “Following the advice of Ms. Pitter, the next phase of the project will move more slowly and be led by local community engagement facilitators.”
To date, there have been two public consultation sessions on the Queen Victoria statue and both occurred in November. One was a virtual Q&A on the city’s Instagram called ‘Ask Jay Anything’ while the other was an in-person witnessing circle that saw almost 100 people in attendance.
During the first event, Pitter outlined three options on the table for the future of the statue: removal, contextualization through multiple forms, or commissioning another piece to stand alongside the monument.
Justin Readman is General Manager of Development Services with the City of Kitchener and spoke with CityNews 570 on Tuesday afternoon. He addressed the temporary pause and Pitter’s departure from the project.
“It was through mutual conversation that we decided that the next phase of the project really should be about retaining local facilitators to continue the dialogue as we identify the pros and cons for the different options that are on the table, and then make a recommendation to council locally,” explained Readman.
He added that Pitter helped city staff adapt an engagement plan and identify best practices on how to unpack complex issues and allow for equity-driven discussions and decision-making.
As for how the temporary hiatus will impact the future of the public engagement and education strategy, Readman said the goal is to present a recommendation to council sometime this year.
“We’re just identifying next steps, and looking to retain some local facilitators and that will allow us to update our project timelines,” said Readman. “We want to make sure that we get this right, so we are slowing down the process a little bit.”
He added, “We want to make sure that our decisions in the coming months are appropriate on the next steps. We need to reach out to some local facilitators and find out their availability and time to bring this forward. Any equity-driven engagement isn ‘t a straight line path, but we are committed to learning and moving forward with sensitivity and intention and alignment with the city’s vision.”
Readman also clarified that the project will still meet the allotted budget of up to $30,000.
The feedback and education strategy on the Queen Victoria Statue was approved by city council in June, 2022. At the time, it was expected a report would be ready between March and April, with results implemented between May and June of 2023. The strategy had a timeline of eight to 12 months.
A statement from the Indigenous-led community group Land Back Camp was issued on Tuesday in response to the recent developments.
It read in part, “The statue continues to be a reminder of the harmful impacts of colonialism, which affects us all. 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.”