Over the weekend, multiple demonstrations took place across the country, calling on Canada to defund police and reallocate those funds to community organizations that focus on addressing systemic racism and saving BIPOC lives.
Speaking to reporters in Montreal, Trudeau said “those kinds of acts of vandalism are not advancing the path towards greater justice and equality in this country.”
Trudeau said he understood the impatience and frustration of Canadians who face systemic discrimination and racism and the desire to act quickly, adding that his government “will do just that.”
However, he said, Canada is “a country of laws,” which need to be respected.
“Choices like this, to rely on vandalism to advance causes, is not going to help anyone move forward the right way,” said Trudeau.
In Montreal, a group of people separate from the ongoing rally toppled a statue of Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, an architect of the residential school system who has been called a symbol of the country’s colonial past.
Images posted on social media on Saturday showed the statue had been decapitated on the ground and sprayed with graffiti.
John A. Macdonald statues across Canada have been repeatedly defaced and placed under review by critics calling out the “harmful legacy” left by Macdonald, who has been credited as a Father of Confederation.
Trudeau said Monday that protests and vandalism were being used by people on “either sides of the spectrum” as a method of furthering debate, but said he was more interested in using frustration as a motivator to make necessary changes.
“We have an awful lot to do as a country, and part of it needs to have a clearer eye towards the past and mistakes made by previous generations of people who built this country,” he said.
“But our focus needs to be on how we improve things today and for the days to come.”
The City of Montreal removed the statue early Sunday morning as officials worked to determine the best course of action moving forward. Montreal police said no arrests had been made as of Sunday afternoon.
Several other politicians have criticized those responsible for tearing down the statue.
On Saturday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney denounced what he claimed was the “vandalism of our history,” and offered to have it installed on the grounds of the Alberta legislature.
Quebec Premier François Legault also condemned the overturning of the statue, but said there was “no question” of sending the statue out-of-province. The statue would be repaired and restored to its pedestal, he said.
“Of course, we need to fight against racism, but that’s not the way to do it,” said Legault. “We have to respect the history.”
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante took to Twitter to “strongly condemn the acts of vandalism that took place,” saying that it would be better to “put them in context” rather than having them removed.
“I am also in favour of adding monuments that are more representative of the society to which we aspire,” she tweeted.
Nakuset, executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter in Montreal, said during a previous interview with Global News that she found the response from political leaders disappointing.
“It’s kind of interesting that when you have politicians that are ready to mend the statue and put it back. Are they really understanding what happened to Indigenous people?” she said.
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