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

Oak Bay sailor stranded in U.S. hospital after suffering massive stroke at sea

Glenn Wakefield’s rescue involved five airplanes and took more than 48 hours

First fall storm expected to hit Greater Victoria tonight

Heavy rainfall, winds expected over the next several days

UPDATED: Crews contain fire to attic of Central Saanich home

Firefighters are responding to a structure fire in Central Saanich

Oak Bay chief puts an end to dad jokes on police Twitter

No more jokes on Oak Bay Police Twitter account

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

POLL: Do you plan on allowing your children to go trick or treating this year?

This popular annual social time will look quite different this year due to COVID-19

Majority needed to pass COVID-19 budget, B.C. premier says

John Horgan pushes urgent care centres in first campaign stop

Nanaimo RCMP shut down illegal racing and stunt driving site

Police “swoop in” to seize vehicles and issue violation tickets

Public health officials urge Canadians to limit contacts again as COVID-19 cases rise

Canada has committed $1 billion to buy at least 154 million doses of vaccines from five different companies

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

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

Vancouver Island family overwhelmed with 14 Lab puppies

Litter may be one of the biggest ever

Islands Trust Conservancy gets funding for protection of at-risk species

Conservancy manages habitat for more than 25 plant and animal species at risk

Most Read