Stop the Statue Project at Laurier

This article is from the WLUFA Advocate April 2016 4.1.

Jonathan Finn, Communication Studies

On June 30, 2015, Wilfrid Laurier University President Max Blouw
announced that Laurier’s Waterloo campus would permanently house 22
life-size bronze statues of Canadian Prime Ministers. The “statue project”
is the brainchild of Jim Rodger (former principal of Waterloo Collegiate)
and Dave Caputo, CEO of local tech company Sandvine, and was
initially proposed for Kitchener’s Victoria Park. When presented with
the proposal in November, 2013, Kitchener City Council wisely solicited
public response, and 79 percent of 2,441 respondents were not in favour
of the project. And so City Councillors voted it down, 8-1. In contrast, at
Laurier there was minimal internal consultation and absolutely no public
consultation. The decision was made by the Board of Governors and
announced in relative quiet during the summer.

After reading about the June 30 announcement in The Record and on
cbc.ca, I developed a petition called “Stop the Statue Project” on
change.org. To date, nearly 800 students, faculty, staff, alumni, and
community members have signed. There are many reasons to oppose the
project: lack of consultation; insensitivity that such a project displays
towards Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples, women and minority populations;
cost of installing and maintaining the statues; lack of rationale or clear need
for the project; the fact that the decision was made by the Board and not
Senate (the Board is responsible for fiduciary decisions whereas Senate is
responsible for the educational mission of the University; the statue project
is defended as enhancing discussion of Canada’s history, which surely
falls under the educational mandate of the University); the fact that the project
was announced on the heels of numerous firings and budget cuts and
claims of financial distress flies in the face of reason.

At the September 16 meeting of Senate, the President confirmed that
the statue project will go ahead as planned, despite opposition. I plan to
bring a motion to Senate for its October 20 meeting, asking the Board
to reverse its decision and to end Laurier’s involvement in the statue
project. I encourage all of you to look at the petition (sign and comment if
you see fit) and to attend the October 20 Senate meeting. The petition can be
found here: https://www.change.org/p/wilfrid-laurier-university-stop-thestatue-
project.

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