A call for the removal of the John A. Macdonald statue
The statue must come down if we care about reconciliation
The John A. Macdonald Statue in Regina’s Victoria Park has been ceremonially “hanged” by the Indigenous people with ropes around its neck. Indigenous protesters and their supporters reject celebrating the injustices Macdonald inflicted upon Indigenous peoples through assimilation methods, such as Residential Schools and the Indian Act.
This call to remove the John A. Macdonald statue is essential for reconciliation with Indigenous people. The demonstration calls Canada’s First Prime Minister’s legacy into question, as he was responsible for the implementation of Residential Schools, oppressive institutions which caused generations of harm to Indigenous communities.
Demonstrators gathered in Victoria Park on Sunday, July 26 to advocate for the removal of Macdonald’s statue. Colton Weins from CBC News spoke with demonstration organizer Star Andreas, who explains the symbolism behind the ropes that were attached to the statue’s neck: “We have eight red ropes, they represent the eight warriors that [MacDonald] hung. The blue rope represents Louis Riel, and the white rope represents all the children in residential schools.”
Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “History is written by the winners” – or in this case, the oppressors. Canada’s history texts know John A. Macdonald as the Father of Confederation. We learn that Macdonald united Canada by building the Canadian Pacific Railroad, transporting people across the country and facilitating western expansion. Although this may have been important in developing Canada’s economy, we neglect to study what Macdonald was doing at the same time – facilitating destruction of Indigenous people and their cultural practices.
In front of the demonstration at the statue, there is a sign that says, “Start Acknowledging True History.” The cultural genocide committed against Indigenous people has caused generations of trauma, and Indigenous people know Macdonald not as the Father of Confederation, but the “Father of Assimilation.” Residential Schools should not be celebrated or made into monuments when they took hundreds of children away from their families, kept them in unsanitary conditions with insufficient food, and stripped them of their heritage. The government’s treaties resulted in the possession of Indigenous people’s land, and the Indian Act locked individuals onto reserves with insufficient funding. Many people starved, whilst the government watched.
Society is facing increased urgency when it comes to our standards of justice. With many movements promoting equality and solidarity amongst one another, it is time that prejudice and racism is eliminated. The removal of the statue could bring us as white settlers closer to achieving reconciliation with Indigenous people, because we will be willing to confront our ignorance and listen to demands for change.
Before the protest just days ago, the Regina Leader Post reported on a legacy review for John A. Macdonald is being conducted by the City of Regina. This is a step in the right direction. The review began at the start of July, and in the meantime, a plaque was placed on the statue. It reads, “Recognizing that the Sir John A. Macdonald statue represents a harmful legacy to members of our community, the City of Regina is reaching out to Indigenous elders, artists, community members and other cultural groups. The City will seek guidance on responding to harmful legacies and increasing community understanding of Regina’s diverse histories. The general public will also have the opportunity to be engaged.”
Involving community members in the evaluation of John A. Macdonald’s legacy shows growth in the government by putting the power into the people. However, there has not since been any action to remove or replace the statue, making it obvious that its removal is but a second priority. By putting the values of Indigenous people and protesters to the side, the city shows that they are not prioritizing reconciliation. Citizens may use their own power to help with future demonstrations.
A petition for the removal of the statue on change.org states, “In the age of truth and reconciliation, this statue/idol should not remain standing.” If society can not acknowledge our faults, then how can we reconcile? The genocide committed against Indigenous people has had long lasting consequences. Intergenerational trauma has been shown to lead to substance abuse, mental health problems and death within families.
Demonstrations, like the one in Victoria Park led by Andreas, are staged as ways for Indigenous people to express their frustration with the stigmas surrounding them. When Indigenous people are not listened to about these issues, it becomes necessary to conduct a protest so the message will be received. Canadian settlers still struggle with admitting their historical faults, even when the effects of intergenerational trauma are still widespread today.
We as settlers and supporters of reconciliation should prioritize the removal of the Maconald statue, as it would teach us a lesson on who we choose to honor in the future. White people idolize Macdonald for creating the blueprints for the economy, even while he is a assimilator, colonist, and genocidal terrorist to Indigenous people. We must acknowledge both sides of history. This will contribute to a greater society.