A group of Conservative MPs held a rally in Regina’s Victoria Park Thursday morning to voice support for the John A. Macdonald statue that stands there.
Andrew Scheer, Michael Kram and Warren Steinley hosted the event on Sept. 3. It was both in-person at the statue and virtual in a Zoom call with about 19 people.
Scheer is the MP for Regina-Qu’Appelle, Kram represents Regina-Wascana and Steinley is the MP for Regina-Lewvan.
The rally was met by protestors advocating to have the statue removed. Calls to remove the statue go back to 2017.
In 2020, advocates had started a new petition calling for its removal. More than 2,600 people have since signed it.
Advocates said the statue should be removed because of John A. Macdonald creating the blueprint of residential schools and deliberately starving Indigenous peoples on the plains to force them into submission. Some advocates said it should be placed in a museum or the Saskatchewan Legislature, others suggested it should be destroyed.
The City of Regina has launched a review of the statue. Mayor Michael Fougere met with protestors in early July.
Protesters at Thursday’s rally yelled out during the speeches.
“How about we have children removed from your home and then we can talk about who did it and if they’re a good person,” one yelled while Kram spoke.
“None of us are perfect,” Kram said in his speech. “We cannot allow our history to be rewritten by an angry mob.”
Des manifestants confrontent M. Scheer, qui essaie de leur parler. La tension est montée d’un cran, mais maintenant elle est redescendue alors qu’un homme avec un bébé parle calmement au député de reconciliation. #statueyqr #rcsk pic.twitter.com/SrA9jcF765
In a statement, Scheer, Kram and Steinley said they are using the Sept. 3 event to encourage residents to show their support for the statue. They said the event was organized after protesters tore down a Macdonald statue in Montreal.
Scheer said the Regina statue is a celebration of Macdonald’s positive contributions to Canada and “his role in the creation of the greatest country in the world.”
“I want my children to grow up in a country where we celebrate great people,” Scheer said.
Scheer said Canada doesn’t build statues of people because they are perfect, but to celebrate the positives. He acknowledged many decisions made in Macdonald’s era have had negative consequences, but said that taking down statues will mean people won’t remember the positives.
“I think it’s important because Canada is such a great country, we need to honour the people that helped build it, create it and that’s why I hope the City of Regina keeps the Macdonald statue,” Scheer said.
Les trois députés ont quitté. Pas de réponses aux questions des journalistes au son des manifestants qui crient contre eux. Les manifestants sont toujours ici et l’une d’entre eux acceptent de parler aux journalistes. #statueyqr pic.twitter.com/0ZnJK3v54g
Protestors say removing statue not erasing history
Saima Desai, one of the protestors who showed up to the rally, said Indigenous peoples, people of colour and Caucasian people were all there united against the statue.
Desai said removing a statue doesn’t destroy history.
“That history still exists. It still exists in the history books, it still exists in the trauma that Indigenous people carry here on Treaty 4 territory,” she said.
“There are people living on this territory today, on Treaty 4 territory, whose families were deliberately starved by that man standing on a pedestal over there.”
What we’re saying is we will no longer put racists and we will no longer put people who have attempted genocide against Indigenous people on a literal pedestal.– Saima Desai
Desai said history cannot be erased. She said the protestors’ message is simply that given Macdonald’s legacy, he should not have a statue in Victoria Park.
“What we’re saying is we will no longer put racists and we will no longer put people who have attempted genocide against Indigenous people on a literal pedestal,” she said.
Regina police called to rally and protest
Regina police were called while the MPs were speaking to protestors.
Police say officers were called at to a “disturbance” in Victoria Park. When officers arrived, there were no protestors present at the statue.