Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is “deeply disappointed” by protesters who tumbled a statue of former Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald in Montreal during the weekend. On Saturday, protesters, who were calling for the defunding of police, toppled the statue which decapitated the former prime minister’s.
On Monday, Trudeau said in Montreal that Canada is a country of laws and a country that should respect those laws even as people look to improve and change them. He added that the kinds of acts of vandalism that happened over the weekend are not advancing the path towards greater justice and equality in this country. What sparked the ongoing protests in Canada and around the world is police brutality and systemic racism after several high-profile police-involved deaths of people of color.
Trudeau said he was more interested in using the real frustrations that people have as motivations to continue to make the big changes necessary while his government has “a lot of work to do.” Trudeau added that choosing to rely on vandalism to advance causes is not going to help anyone move forward the right way. He acknowledged that there are “some elements” in the history of Macdonald’s words and actions that must be looked at with a “more critical eye.”
While using the French language, Trudeau said he believed that a country must inform itself of its past, must be conscious of positive things and negative things that any leader has done in their career. The Coalition for BIPOC Liberation took to social media to stand by the actions of the protesters. The coalition said in a Facebook post, “These racist monuments don’t deserve space.” It also demanded that all statues, plaques, and emblems remembering agents of racism and slavery to be brought down.
The post read, “Symbols of hate encourage the mental oppression of marginalized people and serve as reminders to all people of the inequitable imbalance of power and encourage white supremacist attitudes.” They are also asking for a 50% police budget reduction, and that money needs to be deposited in Black and Indigenous communities. They also asked for “alternative community regulation” to deal with non-violent calls and the demilitarization of the police, emphasizing the need.
In the meantime, multiple politicians have spoken out against the destruction of the statue even as the Coalition for BIPOC Liberation stands by the toppling of the statue. Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante condemned the latest act involving the often-vandalized statue on Saturday, saying she knew that certain historical monuments, in Canada and elsewhere, are at the heart of the emotional debate. She reiterated that she prefers to put them in context rather than simply removing them.
Plante added that she was also in favor of adding monuments that will be more representative of the society.
Erin O’Toole, the Conservative Leader, expressed his displeasure with the toppling of the statue on Twitter. He claimed that Canada “wouldn’t exist” without Macdonald. O’Toole tweeted on Saturday that Canada is a great country and one people should be proud of. He added that people would not build a better future by defacing the past. Also, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney echoed O’Toole saying on Twitter that “it is wrong to allow roving bands of thugs to vandalize our history with impunity.”
Besides, Jagmeet Singh, the NDP Leader, had a diverged opinion in the wake of the statue’s toppling. On Sunday, he noted on Twitter that Macdonald was also “a key figure in the attempt to brutally wipe out Indigenous peoples though he was Canada’s first prime minister.” Singh said removing a statue of him doesn’t erase him from the bad history, but honoring him out of context wipe away the horrors he did.