Protesters in Montreal topple John A. Macdonald statue, demand police defunding

The statue of Sir John A. MacDonald is shown torn down following a demonstration in Montreal, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, where they protested to defund the police with a goal to end all systemic racism within all sectors of the Canadian government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
People attend a demonstration in Montreal, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, where they protested to defund the police with a goal to end all systemic racism within all sectors of the Canadian government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Protesters in Montreal toppled and defaced a statue of John A. Macdonald on Saturday as rallies were held in several cities to demand that police services be defunded and reformed.

A spokesman for the Montreal police confirmed the statue of Canada’s first prime minister was unbolted, pulled down and sprayed with graffiti at around 2:45 p.m. The statue’s head disconnected from its body during the incident.

Jean-Pierre Brabant said police were on hand but did not intervene other than to ask the crowd to disperse on a loudspeaker.

He said no arrests were made.

The incident came at the end of a peaceful protest in which police estimate some 200 people marched to call for police defunding as part of what they called a nationwide day of action.

Images from the event show a crowd of protesters marching in the rain under umbrellas and carrying signs bearing slogans such as “We demand change.”

The protest organizers, who call themselves the Coalition for BIPOC Liberation, are asking cities to reduce their police budgets by 50 per cent.

They said the diverted funds could be used to invest in alternatives to policing such as better mental health treatment, civilian conflict resolution services, and trauma-based emergency services.

But Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante condemned the vandalism of the statue of Macdonald, which she said could be neither tolerated nor accepted.

“I understand and share the motivation of citizens who want to live in a more just and inclusive society,” she said in a statement. “But the discussion and the acts to be taken must be done in a peaceful manner, without ever resorting to vandalism.”

She said the city’s public art office would secure the site and coordinate the statue’s preservation.

Newly elected Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole was less diplomatic, saying on Twitter that Canada is a great country that people should be proud of.

“We will not build a better future by defacing our past,” he said. “It’s time politicians grow a backbone and stand up for our country.”

Calls to withdraw funding from police forces have multiplied in both Canada and the United States in the months after George Floyd, a Black man in Minnesota, was killed when a police officer pressed a knee against his neck for nearly nine minutes.

This set of protests follow a week that has seen major-league athletes strike over the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot in the back seven times by a police officer. The 29-year-old was left paralyzed.

This week also saw Ontario’s police watchdog clear officers who were in the Toronto home of Regis Korchinski-Paquet when she fell to her death from a 24th-floor balcony in May. The Special Investigations Unit said officers didn’t commit any crimes, but the woman’s family said that if officers hadn’t been there, she would still be alive.

Rallies were also held in Toronto and London, Ont. Others were scheduled in Fredericton, Moncton and Halifax, according to organizers.

The John A. Macdonald statue, which sits in Montreal’s Place du Canada, has been repeatedly targeted by vandals who see it as a symbol of racism and colonialism.

The statue has regularly been doused in paint by critics who cite Macdonald’s role at the head of a government that created the Indian Act and established the residential school system, as well as his racist comments about Indigenous Peoples as reasons to target the monument.

Macdonald statues in other Canadian cities have been vandalized in a similar fashion.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

Racial injustice

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sprinkler system extinguishes fire in industrial building in Chilliwack

Progress Way building had only minor fire, smoke and water damage thanks to sprinkler system

UPDATE: Suspect who once killed a man in jail was arrested in Chilliwack after truck fire

Jordan Cole Burt was taken into RCMP custody while wanted on an outstanding warrant

Two Abbotsford elementary schools record COVID-19 exposures, according to Fraser Health

‘Exposures’ defined as 1 positive case at school, ‘clusters’ as 2 or more, ‘outbreaks’ as widespread

UPDATE: Fatal collision Sunday leaves Chilliwack father and five children with minor injuries

Driver who T-boned family after running stop sign on McGuire Road died at the scene

Irish folk supergroup Kíla set to perform on Saturday

Online concert will be available through Harrison Festival Society

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

Earthquake off coast of Washington recorded at 4.1 magnitude

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometres

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Dozens of Canadian venues to light up red in support of entertainment workers

Local facilities among dozens across Canada to participate in Light Up Live

Most Read