Canadians petition for removal of racist symbols

Published June 12, 2020
“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.”  — AFP/File
“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.” — AFP/File

OTTAWA: Canadians have joined a global push to strip public spaces of racist and colonial symbols, calling this week for a statue of Canada’s first prime minister to be taken down and the renaming of a Toronto street.

Thousands signed petitions to remove John A. Macdonald’s bronze likeness from Place du Canada Park in Montreal, and to rename Dundas Street in Toronto.

This comes after moves to remove statues honoring Confederate generals and slave owners in the United States in response to anti-racism protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd.

“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,” one of the petitions states.

Macdonald’s statue, installed in 1895 in the heart of Montreal, has been repeatedly vandalised over the years. His government has been accused of seeking to assimilate indigenous peoples through forcible enrollment in residential schools, for example, that led to a loss of language and culture, described in a 2015 reconciliation commission report as “cultural genocide”. Cen­turies later, many Canadian aboriginals continue to suffer extreme poverty and violence.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said on Wednesday there were no plans to remove the statue. But she also welcomed the opportunity for “a dialogue between what was the past and what was right then or what was acceptable then, where at one point we’re like, as a society, ‘enough’.”

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2020

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