Faye Arcand

What Should We Do With Controversial Toppled Statues?

Auntie Says…Leave That Statue There.

On tv I see angry mobs of protesters knocking over statues followed by huge cheers. The faces reflect their frustration of not being heard and I get that. What follows is a debate of what to do with the statue which has now been deemed, and perhaps was for a long time, a controversy. I say, let’s use of statue, and all it brings with it in history, representation, good-will, and ill-will, as an opportunity to learn. 

Image credit: Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Recently, a statue of John A. McDonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister was toppled during a protest in Montreal. The statue has been the target of vandals for several years and in 1992, was decapitated but repaired and replaced.

McDonald is despised by many due to his treatment and forced assimilation of Indigenous peoples. He implemented residential schools and treated Indigenous peoples less than human. There’s lots of information on the internet, just google it.

Should this statue now be removed and stored away to satisfy the protestors? To me, that seems too easy and the real question needs to be what can we learn?

I think we need to put the statue back with full disclosure displayed for all to see. Beside it –at equal stature– put up a statue of an Indigenous person to share the other side of the history. 

Image credit: Travis Kingdon/CBC

Information needs to be displayed telling of the experiences forced upon an entire nation of people, because of decisions made and supported by this Prime Minister. 

It’s better to have both sides represented—the good, the bad, and the ugly—to stop the divisiveness, of “us” and “them” because like it or not, that is the way some view it.

Also, the reason both sides need to be represented is that until very recently, the history of the attempted genocide of the Indigenous people via removal of children from their families to residential schools, along with the eradication of native language and culture, has not been taught in mainstream public schools. 

While this history led to systemic racism, bigotry, and years of pain, most Canadians weren’t aware (IMO) of the gravity of what was happening behind the scenes. This lack of awareness (whether by choice, lack of awareness, or indifference) and knowledge breeds ignorance and fuels the embracing of systemic teachings.

The discussion and reconciliation need to be transparent and multi-sided. For every action, there is a reaction and to let this statue fall and be shoved in the back closet ignoring it is dangerous from the perspective of not dealing with the truth, reality, and need to heal as a nation.

There are many former residential schools throughout Canada and this is not a part of our history that needs to be celebrated but recognized for those lost souls and all the damage done to all Indigenous peoples and their ancestors. It is a dark period in our history and one we all need to learn.

There has been some progress. The growing awareness and horror of the residential school system are finally entering into the consciousness of a nation. It is being discussed more in schools and public forums. We can now see that understanding can beget empathy to lead to healing.

Recently, the former Portage la Prairie Indian Residential School in Manitoba was purchased by a local band and is being turned into a museum. The Canadian government has designated the school a National Historic Site. 

It is hoped the acknowledgment of the school having a historical impact means the healing of those individuals and communities affected can begin. 

L-R) Regional Chief Kevin Hart, Long Plain First Nation Chief Dennis Meeches, Former Long Plain First Nation Chief Ernie Daniels, MLA & Minister of Indigenous and Northern Relations Eileen Clarke (photo by Michael Blume)

You know, the statue of John A. McDonald is just one example of many across Canada, the United States, and around the world. 

As many of you know I’ve spent a great deal of time in Japan over the years. 

The dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki changed Japan and the world. Wreckage still stands today and museums have been erected in both cities. These sites now are a place of learning, mourning, and always remembering. They’re not about hatred or revenge. It’s about understanding and never letting history repeat itself in the same way.

Hiroshima, Japan

Imagine if the knowledge and public display were all wiped out and just left to the history books to teach the lessons– it would be lost. That could spell a repeat as memories fade.

It’s the same all over the world. Statues are erected to recognize individuals who made some sort of (real or perceived) contribution to the building of a nation or community during a time in history. The reality is that we’ve evolved as a society and things like racism, slavery, genocide, and several other heinous accounts against a society that are deemed unacceptable are associated with some of these ‘founders’ or contributors to the nation.

Keep the statue and share the truths of all sides. Let’s learn from the past–Lest We Forget.

I want to remind you that this post is my own words and my opinion. You don’t need to share it I only ask that you respect it. Thank you. FEA.

4 thoughts on “What Should We Do With Controversial Toppled Statues?”

  1. I cannot begin to claim an understanding of why Canada or the UK topples statues. However, here in the States, those Confederate statues and monuments were not contemporaneous with the historical period which they are intended to whitewash. Those statues were put up a generation later with the express intent to rewrite history and to stand as a permanent statement of oppression of Black people in this country – those statues were meant “to put them uppity Negroes in their place,” as my college American history professor told us at the University of Memphis, TN.

    It was a stark and brave accusation from a New York, ivy league trained professor to a classroom full of Deep South raised students who’d been spoon-fed that racist clap trap all our lives. For most of us – myself included – his class was the introduction to the facts… to the rest of the history. He explained then how those statues we were told was our “heritage” and “history” are all lies. And, those lies should be torn down. There are no monuments to the Nazis or Hitler. The facts and those tattoos on the bodies of the concentration camp survivors were the only monuments needed to commemorate those horrors. Likewise, the slave era and the Confederacy are embedded in the bodies of America’s slave descendants. Every Black body descended from a child of slave holding rapists are monuments to slavery and the treasonous Confederacy. Those Confederate statues are bare, bald lies and deserve no reverence and no place in our society. Melt them down.

    1. Hi Denise. Yes. the history in the US is different than Canada but those statues if left there and the truth put beside them….wouldn’t that make an impact?

      1. Faye, few will ever read the plaques. And, those who do, will not retain the information. They’ll remember a statue honoring someone whom they’ll presume earned the right to be lauded. That’s the entire point of erecting those lies.

        Melt the down. All of them. They are monuments to traitors and villains. They were never heroes, never laudable. They betrayed America and fought a war that killed nearly 620,000 people just for the right own other humans.

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