Statement from Councillor Wong-Tam on the Church Wellesley Village BIA’s Request to Removal of the Statue of Alexander Wood from the Village

Today, Mayor Tory and I received a letter from the Church Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area (CWVBIA) identifying their wish for the immediate removal of the statue of Alexander Wood (born 1772 - died 1884) from the intersection of Church and Alexander. 

In full disclosure, I was a founding member of the CWVBIA in 2002 and was on the Executive Committee at the time of the installation of the statue. The statue was originally placed in the Church Wellesley Village to mark the lands known as “Molly Wood’s Bush,” the oldest and longest-running gay space and place in the world.

The letter brought to light new information discovered by the current CWVBIA board, in that  while Alexander Wood, an early European settler, businessman and noted “molly” an antiquated and derogatory term for homosexual, was treasurer to many charities including the “Society of Converting and Civilizing the Indians and Propagating the Gospel.” Furthermore, Wood was a part of the Early Missions School, a residential school in Sault Ste Marie.

It is important to remember that even marginalized and persecuted communities are capable of furthering acts of oppression. As we move towards reconciliation in Canada, we must examine these historical figures through an intersectional lens to have a deeper understanding of what we can do today to address the wrongdoings. I also believe it is critical that we include Indigenous people in this process as without their full participation there can be no meaningful discussion or reconciliation. The CWVBIA informed me that they have already consulted with local Two-Spirited community members and will continue the dialogue.

In 2005, the statue was commissioned and installed by the CWVBIA with a cost-sharing grant from the City of Toronto’s Economic Development Culture and Tourism Office. The CWVBIA entered into an encroachment agreement with the City to place the statue on the public sidewalk. Under this agreement, it is stipulated the statue must be removed by the CWVBIA with 90 days written notice from the City, as such the CWVBIA can remove the statue at any time at their discretion.

I respect the CWVBIA’s decision to remove the statue in light of this new information and will work with them and interested community members to achieve the desired outcomes expressed in the letter.

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