Statue of Sir James Douglas Unveiled at Mahaica

Friday, August 29 2008

Prime Minister Samuel Hinds and Canadian High Commissioner Charles Court at the unveiling of Sir James Douglas monument in Mahaica. Also in photo is Minister Frank Anthony

SIR James Douglas, a son of the soil from Belmont, Mahaica who became the first Governor of British Columbia in Canada in the nineteenth century was honoured on Thursday, August 28, 2008 with a monument in his name.

The monument was unveiled by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds in the presence of Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Dr. Frank Anthony; Minister within the Ministry of Education Dr. Desrey Fox;  Chairman of the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) Bishop Juan Edghill;  President of the Guyanese Canadian Cultural Association of British Columbia (GCCABC), Clyde Duncan and Mahaica residents.

This historic figure, who many know little about, was born to the mother of a slave and the father of a wealthy planter from Scotland who owned many plantations.  He was born in 1803, and departed Guyana in 1812 with his father and brother to attain an education in Scotland and returned to become governor of British Columbia in Canada.

‘I think sometimes we forget that we do have a lot of other invisible Guyanese heroes and this statue is reminding us that there are many more that were born on this soil that we do not know about’ – Minister Desrey Fox.

Duncan who was instrumental in requesting that Sir Douglas be honoured in this way said Vancouver Island was the former name given to the area which then became British Columbia upon order of England’s queen Victoria at the time.

The area gained popularity following the California gold rush which saw scores of miners migrating to the area to gain wealth from the minerals on the land.

Duncan , while giving an overview of Sir Douglas, said the rush resulted in a number of disputes among the various parties and through the endeavour of Douglas, order and stability was returned to the land.  It was through this act that Sir Douglas became governor and the land declared British Columbia in 1858.

A section of the gathering at the unveiling ceremony for Sir James Douglas

Duncan said his interest in honouring Sir Douglas stemmed from his need to educate people about historic heroes who came from the Guyanese soil and the many contributions they have made to the world.

Had it not been for the bravery of Sir Douglas, Canada would not have been the second largest country in the world as it is today, Duncan said. In this regard, he disclosed several other intentions of the cultural association in his honour in the areas of education, culture and sports and the establishment of a Sir James Douglas’ Foundation.

He believes that the statue is an important link between Canada and Guyana and persons, in particular Mahaica residents should see it as more than just another statue.

The Prime Minister said the recognition given to Douglas is timely and he extended appreciation to the many Guyanese in British Columbia who contributed to the symbolic statue.

“It is important that we draw lessons from history to help us today and into the future…the life and achievements of Sir James Douglas is a challenge to all Guyanese born who have migrated or planning to migrate elsewhere,” Mr. Hinds said.

He described Sir Douglas as Guyana’s first gift to Canada since he was the first to work towards making Canada the country it is today.

Minister Anthony who worked for several years in Mahaica as a health specialist admitted that he knew nothing of Sir James Douglas but said that he can be considered a ”pioneer from the Diaspora”.

The Culture Minister believes that unveiling the monument is the best example of paying tribute to local heroes, noting that it will be beneficial to Guyanese youths.

He said the unveiling is also a symbol of the bond which exists between Guyana and British Columbia and efforts will be made to establish links between the people of Mahaica and British Columbia.

Minister Fox also disclosed that several factors are being taken into consideration to honour Sir James Douglas and one suggestion is the renaming of the Helena Primary School to Sir James Douglas Primary, as well as the establishment of a library in his name.

“I think sometimes we forget that we do have a lot of other invisible Guyanese heroes and this statue is reminding us that there are many more that were born on this soil that we do not know about,”  Minister Fox said.

The monument stands in front of the Helena Nursery School, close to the Mahaica public road where an old water tank used to provide water to steam the train’s engine still exists. (GINA)-  Guyana Chronicle.