A coalition of student groups has had enough of McGill University's monument to its slave-owning founder. On Saturday, they gathered near the statue of James McGill and called for it to be brought down. "This institution has been far too comfortable in its white supremacy delusion for far too long," said Heleena De Oliveira, president of the Black Students' Network of McGill, in a statement.
"McGill has clearly and repeatedly prioritized, valued, and commemorated this piece of metal situated behind me, and indeed the colonial legacy left by James McGill, over the well-being and safety of its living, breathing Black and Indigenous community."
His statue stands near the rue Sherbrooke entrance to the university he helped found, but its presence has become increasingly controversial, said Kyron Richards, President of the Caribbean Students' Society, at Saturday's "Enough is Enough: Take James Down" demonstration.
Richards spoke about James McGill's connection to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, describing him in a statement as "a profiteering merchant who made a fortune from the labour of enslaved peoples in the Caribbean."
After speeches, protesters stuck post-it notes with messages for McGill's administration to the statue and daubed it with colourful chalk.
Their first request is for McGill to replace the statue with "a permanent physical memorialization of the people enslaved and oppressed by James McGill and other actors involved in the creation of the institution."
A change.org petition launched in June, calling for the statue to be removed from campus and replaced with a tree has received over 5,500 signatures.
"McGill's dedication to public service distinguished him from many of his fur-trading contemporaries," it states.
However, a short addition to his biography acknowledges he owned enslaved people, "a fact our university acknowledges and that calls for our greater study and scrutiny."
"The university will publish more facts about its early history as these become available through the work of these and other scholars," it states.
The Enough is Enough: Take James Down campaign is being organized by the Black Students' Network of McGill, the Black Law Students' Association of McGill, the Caribbean Students' Society of McGill, the McGill African Students' Society, and SSMU External Affairs.