Beheaded John A. MacDonald statue will not return: city of Montreal

Three years after the Sir John A. Macdonald statue was toppled and beheaded during an anti-racism protest, the city of Montreal says it will not be reinstalled on its pedestal at Place du Canada, where it had stood for over 120 years.

Montreal city councillor Alia Hassan-Cournol said in an interview that the decision was made after an independent group composed of experts presented their recommendations to the city’s executive committee, who approved them.

“We’re keeping the base at Place du Canada. We’re keeping the canopy because we want to remember that it was there, whatever the history. It’s important because it’s part of our collective history. And we have to remember that,” Hassan-Cournol explained.

The statue of Canada’s first prime minister, who oversaw the Indian Act and authorized the creation of the residential school system, had previously been vandalized and defaced multiple times over the years.

“We’re going to fund a call for proposals for a multi-disciplinary artwork. It can be digital, visual, any mixed arts by Montreal artists, particularly by Indigenous artists,” she said.

The city councillor added that a plaque will also be placed at the pedestal.

But not everybody was happy with the decision, including official opposition leader Chantal Rossy, who told ATPN in a written statement that Ensemble Montreal “believes that the city should establish clear guidelines to determine which statues should be preserved, turned into places of remembrance, sent to a museum or disappear in the event of further vandalism.”

Omeasoo Wahpasiw, an assistant professor in Indigenous studies at Carleton University who is Cree from Treaty 6 territory, said in an interview that she loves the idea of reimagining the statue’s site with Indigenous art.

“When I think about history in that way, the history is going to be okay, Canadian history is not going anywhere. I just did my Google search of John A. Macdonald and his greatness arose from the depth of the internet. It’s not disappearing. It’s not ever going to disappear,” Wahpasiw said.

The statue is currently being held at an undisclosed location. The city of Montreal is also in talks with different institutions to decide where to place the monument.

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