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Montreal's 5 Most Racist Monuments

Not just an American problem.
Senior Editor
Montreal's 5 Most Racist Monuments

Canada is always seen as that polite country, but it turns out we can be pretty racist as well.

The country is actually full of monuments dedicated to historical figures with dark histories. It's worth remembering that many persist right here in Montreal.

This list is by no means exhaustive. But these are the monuments that have attracted the most debate:

Via Thomas Quine

James McGill

Few know that the university founder owned slaves. In fact, not many Canadians know that the institution of slavery existed in Canada. This monument on McGill campus honours the merchant without acknowledging the brutal truth about his enterprises. Harvard recently commissioned a plaque to commemorate the slaves whose labour made the university possible, maybe McGill should do the same.

Via Jeangagnon

Via Gilles Beadry

Jacques Cartier, St Henri Square

This monument is both most striking in its racist imagery and least discussed of the statues on this list. The 1893 fountain commemorates Jacques Cartier's declaration of the conquest of Canada in the name of France. If you look closely at the foot of the pedastal on which the Cartier figure stands, you can see depictions of the heads of indigenous people. The seemingly decapitated heads below the feet of the conqueror makes for especially disturbing imagery.

Via haven't the slightest

John A. Macdonald, Place du Canada

This monument popped up in news stories last November when an anti-racist group covered it in red paint ahead of a protest against racism. The first Canadian prime minister and "father of the confederation," also designed the residential school system, which forceably separated indigenous children from their communities.


Via Marc Bruxelle

Jacques Cartier Commemorative Plaque, Mount Royal

The plaque on the rail of the lookout at the Chalet du Mont-Royal calls Cartier the "discoverer of Canada." It marks the approximate location when the Frenchman claimed the island for France. By honouring Cartier's "discovery" of Canada, the plaque erases both the thousands of years of indigenous history that existed before Cartier's arrival as well as the bloodshed that followed French and British conquest.

Via Fishhead 64

Queen Victoria

Montreal actually has two statues of Queen Victoria: this one in Square Victoria, and another on McGill campus. This statue has also been the target of vandalism. Victoria has become a symbol of British imperialism in North America, Africa, and Ireland. During her reign, intense purges and mass-killings of indigenous peoples took place.

Via Montreal Gazette

BONUS: Jefferson Davis Commemorative Plaque (Removed)

Few people know that the proponent of slavery and the president of the Confederate States of America lived in Montreal after the American Civil War. This plaque outside the Hudson Bay Company downtown commemorated his time in the city. In 2017, the building owner finally decided to remove the plaque. It is still on this list to demonstrate that change is possible and discussion is ongoing.

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