Regina Conservative MP’s were met with protestors at a virtual rally in support of keeping the John A Macdonald statue in Victoria Park on Thrusday morning.
The event was live streamed to hundreds of online viewers, but Andrew Scheer, Warren Steinley and Michael Kram’s comments from the podium were drowned out, as protesters at the park opposed to the rally voiced their disapproval.
“Andrew Scheer would have you say that we are destroying history by taking down the statue, but that history still exists,” explained Saima Desai, who attended the rally to share opposition to the statue’s presence in the park. “[The history] still exists in the history books, it still exists in the trauma that indigenous people carry here on Treaty Four Territory. What we're saying is that we will no longer put racists, we will no longer put people who have attempted genocide against indigenous people, on a literal pedestal, which is what that statue is. Every day my indigenous friends have to walk past that statue, a statue of someone who tried to erase their entire culture who tried to deliberately kill their families.”
The rally comes after a statue of John A Macdonald in Montreal was taken down by protesters over the weekend. Scheer hopes Regina’s statue stays in Victoria Park.
MacDonald is credited as one of the primary father’s of confederation, who oversaw creation of a national railway and secured unification of western territories into one nation, now called Canada. He is also a controversial figure, thanks to policies like the systemic starvation of indigenous people in order to force them onto reserves, and the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885, aimed at limiting Chinese immigration through a head tax.
“If you look back at our history and study the leading characters and you see only the blemishes, you're missing out on a wonderful story of a great country that is constantly bettering itself and offering a refuge to people all around the world and providing hope and opportunity,” said Scheer, the current Conservative MP for Regina Qu’Appelle.
When asked about the impact the statue may have, specifically for Indigenous people, given some the first Prime Minister’s policies, Scheer said, “I’m obviously very sensitive to people who have who have those feelings so I think it's important that we address that and listen to them. I know that there are proposals about adding other types of monuments to tell the story of Indigenous peoples and the impacts of the decisions that were made at the time. If we look back at every single Prime Minister who presided over times where that kind of thinking was pervasive, we won't have any monuments left.”
Despite the protest, Scheer maintains the rally was a success. “At one point we had over 1,400 people watching online,” he said. “There were a few people there today that had a different point of view, and I'm glad we live in a country where they can express themselves and they can advocate for their side of the debates,” said Scheer. “I was disappointed with some of them who decided to be quite rude and use quite a lot of profanities and make very very rude gestures, but I don't believe that they speak for the majority of Canadians.”
Desai refutes Scheers’ sentiment.
“There have been friends of mine who have been camped out at this statue, every week for months, demanding that it be taken down,” said Desai. “[There are] people who are here ready and willing to talk, and Andrew Scheer chooses this moment at 8:30am on a Thursday and knowing that no one else will be around, except the media, to come here and make a speech about the statue arguing in favour of keeping it up.” Desai said. “I think that most people want a peaceful and democratic resolution to taking the statue down. And as we've seen today it is the will of the people there is a large base of support there are thousands and thousands of signatures on a petition to take down that same statue.”
City administration is currently consulting with community members and Indigenous leaders about plans for the MacDonald statue. Council will vote once their findings are presented.