John A. Macdonald statue must be restored and put back, Legault says
MONTREAL -- Quebec Premier Francois Legault says the toppled statue of John A. Macdonald will be dusted off, restored and put back.
“Of course we need to fight against racism,” Legault said Monday, two days after the statue came down at the hands of protesters.
“But that is not the way to do it—we have to respect the history.”
He called the incident “unacceptable,” echoing politicians at all levels who said the same, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday.
“Those kinds of acts of vandalism are not advancing the path towards greater justice and equality in this country,” Trudeau said.
Exactly what is planned for the statue isn’t yet clear. It’s now headless, as the head came off during its fall from the pedestal.
The pieces are in a warehouse. And while Legault said his intention is to put it back up, the statue actually belongs to the City of Montreal, which will make the ultimate decision.
So far, the city has taken the same view, with Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante being one of the first leaders to put out a statement condemning the statue’s toppling.
However, city officials haven’t said yet what they are planning, and whether the statue will, for example, go precisely back where it was.
The incident continued to provoke debate in Montreal on Monday, with strong feelings on both sides.
Duane Gastant'Aucoin, who described himself as a member of one Canada’s First Nations, said he had “mixed feelings.”
Thinking about John A. Macdonald, “the history that he's responsible for has done a lot of harm to my people,” he said.
“But at the same time, he's Canada's first prime minister, so how do we balance the two?"
Macdonald was responsible for genocidal acts against Canadian Indigenous people, including intentionally starving women and children to help “clear” the plains for settlement.
A local history teacher said he was “shocked” by the act and felt that removing the statue was tantamount to erasing history.
“There has to be public discussion, there has to be education,” said teacher Michael Rice, “and if people want to understand more, it's important for all sides to express their views.”