Yes, I might have voted for Premier François Legault in the next Quebec provincial election, even though I fear his back-to-school plan is going to backfire big time and cause a major second COVID-19 wave. But I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt: he and his health advisers are trying to make the best of a very bad situation. Their intent is noble. My vote would have been my way of saying thank you for guiding us through this terrible pandemic and for doing his best.
But fomenting unrest in the streets of Montreal? He lost me there.
He probably didn’t realize he was doing it yesterday when he told the media that the statue of John A. Macdonald, vandalized and pulled down again on Saturday, must be repaired and reinstalled on its pedestal in Place du Canada because of its historical value.
If that happens, there will be more demonstrations around its base. It will be vandalized again. It will be pulled down again. It will lose its head again. We can’t predict what sort of violence will ensue around it in these days of increasing civil unrest in the United States and Canada. We can’t predict how it will spread into the streets of the city. We may be only a spark or two away from unrest flaring up here.
To recap: Macdonald, revered by many as the first prime minister of Canada, also had a dark side: he built the nation through the genocide of Indigenous Peoples and Chinese people. For the past 15 years, First Nations people and many who support them have called for the statue to be moved to a museum or out of sight completely. The politicians have ignored their pleas, despite paying lip service to reconciliation efforts with Indigenous Peoples by the Canadian government.
So, while other Canadian politicians have condemned the “mob” that brought down the statue on Saturday, only Legault (from what I have heard) has publicly stated it must be put back in the same place. The others adopted a wait-and-see attitude: restore it, and we’ll think about where to place it afterward.
Maybe Legault was talking off the top of his head. Maybe he didn’t realize he was taking a similar approach to the one U.S. President Donald Trump is using with his divisive law and order election campaign strategy that has led to clashes — and deaths — in the streets of American cities. Maybe Legault didn’t realize that his words could lead to more civil unrest in the streets of Montreal.
But it’s not too late for Legault to backtrack on his comments. Hopefully, his advisers will urge him to soften his stance on the statue issue. Hopefully, they will explain to him that removing an offensive statue from a public square is not erasing history because we can never erase the genocide committed by Macdonald, whose legacy will be a stain on Canada forever, statues or no statues.
Hopefully, Legault won’t double down on the Trump approach.