For months, the topic of monuments and statues in Montreal, Canada and around the world has become a hot topic. In the wake of increased awareness of systemic racism and racial injustice around the world, the conversation surrounding the memorialization of the past has become a controversial one. Three months ago, a petition was started by Isobel Walker to advocate for the removal of a statue of John A. Macdonald in the city.
The first Prime Minister of Canada, Macdonald was also a slave-owner who took part in colonial practices that caused lasting damage to the Indigenous peoples.
While some argue that this was common in the society of the time, others have said that these types of actions should not be commemorated and celebrated.
Since then, more and more discussions of other figures in Canadian and Quebec history have been facing backlash, including James McGill, the founder of McGill University, who also committed acts of colonial oppression.
On Saturday, August 29, after a protest to defund the police, a group of people headed to the statue downtown and were able to unbolt it and bring it down.
Statue taken down today in so-called #Montreal #BlackLivesMatter #DefundPolice #manifencours #decolonize Kanada https://t.co/0TYGayWUiK— Nore (@Nore) 1598728449.0
The political statement has stirred reaction nationwide and overseas, including BBC.
Mayor Valérie Plante published a statement yesterday on Facebook and Twitter early yesterday evening, following reports of the statue's vandalization.
I strongly condemn the acts of vandalism that took place this afternoon in downtown Montréal, which led to the John… https://t.co/7x0G96p0fv— Valérie Plante (@Valérie Plante) 1598737866.0
Some historical monuments, here as elsewhere, are at the heart of current emotional debates. I reiterate that it's… https://t.co/8xsriKMA8F— Valérie Plante (@Valérie Plante) 1598737867.0
The statement, published in both English and French, does not condone the vandalization of the statue, but acknowledged that this statue, like many others, has been a source of "emotional debates."
She goes on to explain that she believes that while these monuments should not be taken down, more inclusivity and recognition should be included in the city's memorialization.
"The discussion and the actions that are required must be done in a peaceful manner, without ever resorting to vandalism."
I understand and share the motivation of citizens who want to live in a more just and inclusive society. The discus… https://t.co/90otbcXHNd— Valérie Plante (@Valérie Plante) 1598737867.0
The public art office will secure the perimeter and coordinate the conservation of the statue. In consultation with… https://t.co/VJoutKqTLq— Valérie Plante (@Valérie Plante) 1598737867.0
Premier François Legault has also spoken out about the matter.
Quoique l’on puisse penser de John A. MacDonald, détruire un monument ainsi est inacceptable. Il faut combattre l… https://t.co/Q3bvSZDQ4C— François Legault (@François Legault) 1598743485.0
He believes that "Vandalism has no place in our democracy and the statue must be restored."