Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said that if Montreal decides not to reinstall a statue of John A. Macdonald, which was toppled by protesters on Saturday, he would like to see it installed on the grounds of the Alberta legislature.
Montreal police confirmed the statue was unbolted, pulled down and sprayed with graffiti by protesters following one of a series of nationwide demonstrations that called for police to be defunded.
The statue’s head was disconnected from its body during the incident.
The movement to remove the statue was organized separately from the group calling for police defunding, according to a flyer obtained by Global News.
“Today, inspired by a summer of rebellion and anti-racist protest, a diverse coalition of young activists take it upon themselves to act where the city has failed,” read the flyer.
“We offer this action in solidarity with the Indigenous peoples of Tio’tia:ke, Turtle Island and across the globe, and all those fighting against colonialism and anti-Blackness in the struggle for a better world.”
“This vandalism of our history and heroes must stop,” Kenney said in a series of tweets Saturday afternoon.
“Many of those on the extreme left responsible for this kind of violence claim that Canada is an illegitimate state, all the while enjoying Canada’s rights, freedoms, privileges and prosperity,” Kenney said. “None of those things were created by accident.”
Kenney said that it is right to debate the life and legacy of Canada’s first prime minister, but wrong “to allow roving bands of thugs to vandalize our history with impunity.”
The premier added that Macdonald was an immigrant who overcame”unimaginable” personal trauma to create a country from divided factions.
On Sunday, Kenney also appeared on The Roy Green Show, where he spoke about the statue’s vandalism.
“This was done by people on the extreme left,” Kenney said.
“These are basically people that (have) Marxist, extreme-left political ideology, who believe in using violence. And that’s what it was. It was violence against public property, against a symbol of Canada.”
Kenney also questioned why the protesters were permitted to vandalize the statue in the first place.
“Why were the police standing by watching the statue get torn down? One of the principles of the country that John Macdonald helped to found was the principle of the rule of law, and that was violated fragrantly by violent anarchists who hate this country.”
It is not the first time the John A. Macdonald statue has been targeted by those who see it as a symbol of racism and colonialism.
Critics of the statue have said that the Macdonald government’s involvement in the creation of the Indian Act, and the establishment of the residential school system, as well as racist comments towards Indigenous peoples, are reasons to target the statue.
Montreal’s mayor, Valérie Plante, was also quick to condemn the vandalism and added that the city’s public art office will begin work on the conservation of the statue in consultation with the city’s heritage experts.
“If the City of Montreal decides not to restore Wade’s statue of Macdonald to where it has stood for 125 years, we would be happy to receive it for installation on the grounds of Alberta’s legislature,” Kenney said.
–with files from Global News’ Alessia Maratta, Allison Bench, and The Canadian Press.