Montreal’s monument of Sir John A. Macdonald is once again at the centre of controversy.
As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 9,000 people have signed a new petition calling for the monument of Canada’s first prime minister to be removed from the Place du Canada Park.
The petition’s organizers are calling on Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante to act and take down the monument, which they say symbolizes Canada’s “racist, colonial, white nationalist” past.
The petition also states that Macdonald should not be celebrated on unceded Indigenous land.
“It looks like you are celebrating him and he shouldn’t be celebrated,” said Native Women’s Shelter executive director Nakuset.
Nakuset argues that Macdonald’s role in the creation of the Indian Act and the residential school system are still felt today.
His government was the architect of a system that ripped thousands of Indigenous children from their families and into schools meant to assimilate them. The residential school system led to the deaths, disappearances and mistreatment of children who were forcibly separated from their parents.
As Nakuset’s mother was forced to attend a residential school, she said that intergenerational trauma has been passed down to her.
“Why would you have a statue of someone who did crimes like that for everyone to see?” she said.
The petition comes as protests in the United States and Canada call for the dismantlement of current systems and a larger conversation about racism — including in Montreal. The authors of the petition say Confederate monuments have been taken down in the U.S. in light of protests sparked by George Floyd‘s death.
“It is time for Canadians too to revise the meanings of our own public monuments, and their effect on the legacy we wish to correct,” the petition states.
Over the years, the bronze statue has been the target of vandalism and covered with red spray paint as critics have raised questions about commemorating Macdonald.
Montreal’s historical society, for its part, believes the heritage the statue represents should be preserved. Instead of taking the statue down, the society believes a smaller stone or plaque should be placed nearby to acknowledge Canada’s turbulent history.
“Monuments are meant to say something to the next generations,” Heritage Montreal spokesperson Dinu Bumbaru said.
“Our generation needs to learn to add its own monuments, not pretend the past does not exist.”
Global News reached out to the City of Montreal, but no one was available for comment.
The statue has been in place on the grounds of Place du Canada Park since 1895.
— With files from Global News’ Kalina Laframboise