Protestors in the city of Montreal supporting a movement to defund the police toppled and defaced a statue of Canada’s first Prime Minister John A MacDonald.
While no group has taken responsibility for the act at the Place du Canada in the largest city in the province of Quebec, there was a march in Montreal on Saturday afternoon featuring activists seeking to defund the police, and in support of Black Lives Matter and indigenous peoples.
According to a video of the incident, a cluster of people scaled the monument where the statue was prominently featured and then pulled it down using ropes after unbolting it from its pedestal. The statue was also decapitated and defaced with graffiti.
According to the national broadcaster CBC, a leaflet found at the site read, in part, “Sir John A. Macdonald was a white supremacist who orchestrated the genocide of Indigenous peoples with the creation of the brutal residential schools system, as well as promoting other measures that attacked Indigenous peoples and traditions.”
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Statues of MacDonald have been attacked in various parts of the country in the past but this was the first time one was brought down. Canada witnessed demonstrations in several cities, including Toronto, Calgary and Montreal, on Saturday.
The act of anonymous activists came in for criticism from leaders. Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante condemned the vandalism leading to the tearing down of the statue and said such acts “cannot be accepted nor tolerated.” She added, “I understand and share the motivation of citizens who want to live in a more just and inclusive society. The discussion and the actions that are required must be done in a peaceful manner, without ever resorting to vandalism.”
The Premier of Quebec Francoise Legault described the act as “unacceptable” and added, “We must fight racism, but destroying parts of our history is not the solution. Vandalism has no place in our democracy and the statue must be restored.” The vandalism also faced growing criticism from national and provincial leaders across the country. Plante said Montreal’s public art office will secure the perimeter of the area where the statue stood and coordinate its “conservation.”