Canada has re-ignited the debate about what should be done with monuments to white supremacy and hatred. Now, the time has arrived to start building a better future from the debris of racist monuments.
Like many citizens from Montreal, one of the favorite places in the city is the majestic lookout on top of Mount Royal.
On the railing surrounding the lookout sits a plaque which reads: “On October 2nd, 1535, Jacques Cartier, discoverer of Canada, climbed the mountain under the guidance of the Indians of the village of Hochelaga.
Impressed with the beauty of the landscape displayed before his eyes, he gave it the name of Mount Royal, from which the city of Montreal took its name.
The plaque was installed in 1935, some 400 years after Cartier landed on these shores, setting off a process of European colonization, displacement of Indigenous populations, and genocide.
In 1935, it might have been acceptable among white people to argue the misguided notion that Europeans “discovered” North America, but today such a notion would be widely regarded as racist.
The doctrine of discovery advances a white supremacist view that the First Nations of Canada were largely uncivilized, and in need of “discovery” in order to be written into the legitimate annals of Canadian history.
Such monuments don’t belong in public places. They should be removed immediately and instead placed in museums where they can be properly contextualized.
Protesters throw a statue of slave trader Edward Colston into Bristol harbour, during a Black Lives Matter protest rally.
There has been a massive debate across North America as to how we should reckon with public commemorations and displays of our past atrocities. The example of statues is a great place to start.
Ever since the police killing of George Floyd, monuments to Confederate leaders, slave owners, and colonizers have been coming down across the USA and Canada.
The city of Halifax removed a statue of the colonizer Edward Cornwallis in 2018, and in Montreal, a statue of John A. MacDonald has been defaced repeatedly in the last few years with demands for its removal.
There is an argument that removing statues and plaques is an erasure of our history. But do monuments like these teach us and our children about slavery, residential schools, and state-sponsored racism?
That history should be taught in schools and reckoned with at every level, not celebrated and brandished on pedestals or plaques atop our cities’ finest landmarks.
The urgency to take down monuments to white supremacy and hatred was underscored recently with the news that a cenotaph commemorating a Ukrainian SS division that collaborated with the Nazis during WW II was defaced in Oakville, Ontario.
This act not only shined a light on the fact that this tribute to Nazis stands boldly in public in a Canadian city but also re-ignited the debate about what should be done with such monuments.
We are at a decisive moment in history where monuments to hatred are falling all around us. We can either allow statues of racists, fascists, and colonizers to remain standing, or we can tear them down and try to build a better future, learning from the mistakes of the past.
The second largest country in the world by total area, Canada, is one of the most highly urbanized globally. However, none of its citizens have the right to own physical land in the country.
That is because almost the entire land in Canada is solely owned by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, who is also the head of state. All of those lands are held as public (known as Crown Lands) and mainly used as national parks, forests, private homes, oil exploration and for agriculture.
Canadian law in most provinces evolved from British common law, so instead of directly owning land, Canadians have land tenure. That means they can only own an interest in an estate.
Only 9.7% of the total land is privately owned, while the rest is Crown Land. It is administered on behalf of the Crown by various agencies or departments of the government of Canada.
Mondoweiss / ABC Flash Point News 2020.