Scheer, other Conservative MPs met by protesters at John A. Macdonald rally in Regina
OTTAWA -- Former Conservative leader and sitting MP Andrew Scheer was met with fierce opposition in Regina on Thursday when he held a virtual rally to celebrate the 'positive contributions' of John A. Macdonald — just days after a statue of the former prime minister was toppled and decapitated during a protest in Montreal.
"Why do we build statues and monuments? Is it because we recognize the few public figures who are perfect? Of course not, perfection is not for this side of eternity," said Scheer, launching into his speech which was broadcasting live on Facebook as he stood before a statue of Macdonald in Victoria Park, Regina.
Before he could utter his next sentence, the Regina MP was met with on-site boos and cries of "shame" and protesters telling him to "get up to date."
"You're not relevant anymore," yelled another protestor.
Scheer, flanked by fellow Conservative MPs Michael Kram and Warren Steinley, forged ahead with his speech in defence of the statue
"If we look back at our rich history and study the leading figures in its telling, and see only the blemishes, then we are missing out on the beautiful story of a wonderful country that is always, constantly bettering itself."
His speech comes in the wake of consultation the city of Regina has launched over the statue, stating on its website that it recognizes the harmful legacy Macdonald represents. On the national stage, Montreal’s toppling of its own Macdonald statue has injected a fresh fervor into the debate over whether to commemorate historical figures that had key roles in racist and harmful policies.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “deeply disappointed” to see the statue of Macdonald toppled on Saturday as protesters in Montreal called for the police to be defunded.
"We are a country of laws, and we are a country that needs to respect those laws even as we seek to improve and change them," Trudeau said in Montreal on Monday.
"Those kinds of acts of vandalism are not advancing the path towards greater justice and equality in this country."
However, the Coalition for BIPOC Liberation, which posted the location and timing of the Montreal protest online ahead of the demonstration, said on social media that it stands by the actions of the protesters — and it called for further statues to be taken down.
"Symbols of hate encourage the mental oppression of marginalized people and serve as reminders to all people of the inequitable imbalance of power and encourage white supremacist attitudes," the post read.
Macdonald's legacy has been criticized for a number of reasons. Many of his detractors have pointed to his instrumental role in creating Canada's residential school system. His government also passed the Chinese Immigration Act, which required Chinese immigrants to pay a $50 "head tax" upon entering Canada, and Macdonald had Métis leader Louis Riel executed in the late 1800s.
However, despite this legacy of racist policies, he was also a key figure in the formation of Canada and served as its first prime minister— leading to the erection of statues in his honour.
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole was one of those who pointed to this fact upon hearing the news of the statue's toppling. He tweeted that Canada "wouldn't exist" without Macdonald.
"Canada is a great country, and one we should be proud of. We will not build a better future by defacing our past," O'Toole tweeted on Saturday.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney echoed O'Toole and offered to re-home the statue on the grounds of the Alberta legislature, but the City of Montreal has since decided to repair and return the statue to its original location.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh took a different tone in the wake of the statue's toppling, noting on Twitter Sunday that, while Macdonald was Canada's first prime minister, he was also "a key figure in the attempt to brutally wipe out Indigenous peoples."
"Taking down a statue of him doesn't erase him from history any more than honouring him out of context erases the horrors he caused," Singh said.
With files from CTV News Regina