PHOTO: Eric Thomas / Getty Images

by Serena Bains, Staff Writer

A series of statues have been taken down and vandalized both worldwide and in Canada as increased attention is being brought to the racial injustices BIPOC face. A part of the movement has been identifying where power is currently held and how to effectively remove power from the police-state and its functions of upholding white supremacy, colonization, and capitalism. Statues are essentially symbols of these ideas which inform the status quo. Thus, the removal of statues is a preliminary step to address the inequalities created as a result of not only the individuals depicted, but the interests they were serving. 

An individual whose life’s work consisted of white supremacy, colonization, and capitalism was John A. Macdonald. The first Prime Minister of Canada’s statue was recently removed in Montréal by activists who cited his continuation and escalation of the genocide against Indigenous peoples as making him not worthy of being immortalized.

Those opposed to the removal of the statue, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, say that the action is one of lawlessness and vandalism. Where the perpetrators are not only criminals, but those looking to whitewash or erase history. Trudeau, who pledged his support to help implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2016, now apparently refutes actions consistent with the basis of the commission to dismantle the “paternalistic and racist foundations” that Canada currently operates from. 

The irony of whitewashing the history of an individual who more effectively implemented the cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples is staggering. Not only is the “history” that the offended parties are referring to inaccurate, but it is purposeful in its point of view emphasizing the systems in place that abuse minorities and glorifying whiteness The events that have actually been erased from history are the same omissions that allow an individual like John A. Macdonald to be idolized by the general population. 

The argument that removing a statue is an attempt to erase history is absurd as well. In Germany there are no statues of Adolf Hitler, but the history of WWII and the mass genocide that occurred is not forgotten. Rather, the history of his actions are taught appropriately.

In Canada, however, the history told of John A. Macdonald is one of a heroic arc. His story omits the past and present effects of the Indian Act and the creation of the colonial state of Canada. This revisionist history is present in textbooks written from colonalial perspectives, where the reader is asked to determine the pros and cons of an act that resulted in the genocide of generations. If someone refuses to believe the fairytale of John A. Macdonald being a brilliant leader and him purposely starving Indigenous peoples being congruent, is that individual erasing history? 

The removal of statues of abhorrent figures is necessary. They are a symbol of not only their actions, but the acceptance and idealization of the actions they perpetuated and the ideology those actions serve. Further, reconciliation is not possible when the founder of the colonial state of Canada and the pioneer of the residential school system, and thus genocide is seen as a figure worth memorializing.