A Statue of Canada’s First Prime Minister Is Toppled, but Politicians Want It RestoredBreaking News
tags: memorials, Canadian history, public history, Protest, Justin Trudeau, Indigenous history, John A. MacDonald
The visage of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, has adorned the $10 bill of the country he helped create 153 years ago. But he has also been criticized as a racist who ruthlessly tried to wipe out Indigenous culture.
Yet after a crowd of cheering activists toppled his statue in a public square in Montreal over the weekend, politicians across the political spectrum in Canada denounced the act. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that while a country must inform itself about both the positive and negative aspects of its leaders, vandalism had no place in a country with the rule of law.
“Those kinds of acts of vandalism are not advancing the path toward greater justice and equality in this country,” he said.
Cities across the world have had reckonings over what to do with statues or monuments celebrating historical figures who had racist views or supported slavery. The debate has pitted those who argue that removing them is whitewashing history against those who say that keeping them causes pain and promotes discrimination.
Elijah Olise, 24, an actor and activist who supported tearing down the statue, said its prominent place in downtown Montreal glorified a historic relic with offensive views.
“People were tired of waiting for it to be removed,” he said. “In Canada, racism can be polite and covert and this statue was a symbol for people who still have Macdonald’s way of thinking. The statue was an open wound.”
He added that at a time when young people were agitating for justice, Mr. Trudeau “shouldn’t be telling Black, Indigenous and people of color he is disappointed in them.”
In recent years under Mr. Trudeau, Canada has sought to reconcile with its troubled colonial past. Mr. Trudeau has acknowledged the nation’s past “humiliation, neglect and abuse” of Indigenous people and vowed at the United Nations to improve their lives.
But after his comments on the statue’s toppling, he received blowback on social media — from people who said he did not speak out forcefully enough against the vandalism, and also from others who said he did not take a tough enough stance against Mr. Macdonald’s record.