A MONUMENTAL PROBLEM: We Debate Tearing Down Statues, But Hasn’t the Democratic Process Already Fallen?

Despite promises it would be restored, the pedestal for the Champlain monument is still empty in Oriillia, Ontario.

AWN STAFF EDITORIAL

We have heard a lot lately that the monuments and statues of some of America’s founding figures, including those depicting Christopher Columbus and Thomas Jefferson, as well as those of some Confederate figures, have been ripped down by violent protestors who claim to be avenging the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer May 25—even though those who knew Floyd said he never would have approved of the violence that’s being carried out.

Meanwhile in Canada, some First Nations representatives are petitioning to remove the statue of Canada’s first prime minister, John A. MacDonald, which since 1895 has stood in Montreal. More than 9,000 people reportedly have signed a new petition calling for the monument to be removed from the Place du Canada Park. “The petition’s organizers are calling on Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante to act and take down the monument, which they say symbolizes Canada’s ‘racist, colonial, white nationalist’ past,” Global News noted.

Meanwhile, among other monuments being eyed for removal, a relatively modest statue of James McGill, who founded Montreal’s McGill University, is being targeted by some students and faculty who, without citing specific historical sources,  as is usually the case, proclaim that the statue should be removed because McGill was “a slaveowner of blacks and indigenous people.” Any redeeming qualities, such as McGill founding a university open to all, are given no consideration.

As for MacDonald, according to those wanting his image removed, he is claimed to have been instrumental in developing the residential school system that wrought hardships and horrors upon indigenous peoples in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

HAS CANADIAN DEMOCRACY ALREADY FALLEN?

But amid all the calamity and controversy—and regardless of what one might think of the idea of removing historical monuments—Awakening News has been documenting for several years now (going back to our predecessor publication, “Worlds Apart”) that the democratic process in Canada has been “toppled” and appears to be, figuratively speaking, in “cold storage,” perhaps sitting next to the Samuel de Champlain monument that once stood at Couchiching Park in Orillia, Ontario but was unceremoniously removed in 2017 supposedly for refurbishment and rumored design alterations to make it less “offensive.”

And although that statue was supposed to be reinstalled “soon” according to news reports from the summer of 2019, it is still hidden away, even while it’s being judged as “racist” and targeted for removal via an online petition at Change.org that calls for local officials not to reinstall the 95-year-old monument.

Gone is the democratic ideal that the original Champlain monument could be restored with respect to the local citizens who like it, and in deference to the artist who created it, and those who have different viewpoints can simply commission their own monument (or produce commemorative books, documentaries etc.) so everyone’s perspective is respected even-handedly. (EDITOR’S NOTE: See our upcoming separate article for news and more observations about the Champlain monument).

However, the bottom line is that we human beings get carried away with “causes” and seem so easily offended by external objects, but when it comes to preserving, upholding and exercising our democratic rights, there is barely a whimper when those rights are ignored or overturned. Constitutions and statutory laws printed on paper matter much more than figures cast in bronze or chiseled in stone. Yes, tribal peoples and other minorities have at times been treated badly, and, yes, there were horrifying policies carried out at the infamous residential schools of Canada. But due to the debt-based money system and its bitter fruits—heavy property taxes, skyrocketing personal and public debts, unfair seizures of property and unlawful mortgage foreclosures against peoples of all backgrounds—what once seemed like a racial struggle with racial injustices has become, or perhaps has always mostly been, more of a class struggle, based on financial monopoly, not so much a “color” thing.

Thus, the poorer classes, consisting of people of all shades and backgrounds, live under a yoke of financial oppression and control.

AT THE GRASSROOTS LEVEL

AWN has seen such factors manifest themselves in terms of the casinos buying media compliance via gambling advertising, enabling casino houses to operate with often deplorable labour policies and leave in place workplace hazards that threaten the well-being of workers regardless of whether the workers have indigenous or non-indigenous backgrounds. And back in the early 1990s, AWN Associate Editor John Devine saw his former retail business, Fisherman’s Cove in Orillia, Ontario, unfairly bulldozed, without due process of law, to widen the nearby road for Casino Rama. His “majority” status didn’t save his business. And writing to Canadian politicians these days seems to be an exercise in futility when it comes to, for example, AWN’s fully-ignored requests for their help to preserve groundwater for all peoples anywhere.

Anyway, you get the picture. Statues and markers can be visually stimulating and carry with them an artistic aspect , apart from their historical aspects. Yet, however historically accurate they may (or may not) be, they’re made of metal and stone. We, the People, made of flesh and blood—of all colors and backgrounds—are still waiting for a responsive democratic system which could, for starters, bring economic democracy to the people instead of letting banking institutions and mega-corporations call the shots. That would help all North Americans, regardless of our ultimate origins.