Northern Currents -Tearing down colonial statues is making history, not erasing it

Northern Currents -Tearing down colonial statues is making history, not erasing it


With one more discovery of 182 extra unmarked graves on the grounds of a former residential college close to Cranbrook, BC, the dialog round Canada’s colonial previous exploded on social media and most people. 

It is just about inconceivable to scroll by way of any social media feed lately with out coming throughout numerous posts exhibiting solidarity with First Nations individuals – and that is a superb factor. Even on my journey to the native grocery retailer on Canada Day, orange shirts had been a typical sight. Hopefully, all the things that has been delivered to gentle previously few weeks will sign some kind of significant shift toward reconciliation

Maybe the Canadian authorities will even raise a finger. Maybe Trudeau will stop fighting Indigenous children in court docket. Maybe…

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Monuments of a colonial previous

The frequent saying is that when the USA sneezes, Canada catches a chilly. The explosive development of the Black Lives Matter motion has undoubtedly influenced Canadian politics over the previous few years. Racial points and Canada’s genocidal historical past have just about develop into dinner desk conversations in lots of properties.

While accomplice statues get bashed down within the south, Canada’s personal architects of genocide and apartheid have additionally come to a crumbling demise. Statues of John A MacDonald and Egerton Ryerson have been defaced and torn down throughout Canada.

My opinion on this is very clear: this is a superb factor.

For most of us white Canadians, we now have been strolling previous these statues with out a lot as a second thought. “John A MacDonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister,” we might suppose to ourselves. For Indigenous individuals inside Canadian borders, the story is radically totally different. 

Their ancestors had been the goal of express genocide; I’d argue that this is nonetheless an ongoing genocide as evidenced by the MMWIG inquiry and foster care system. Currently, blood quantum legal guidelines restrict the precise of Indigenous People to outline themselves. Not to say the Indian Act still mentions “Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians” because the unique property of the Government.

Yes, property. This is an apartheid system. There is simply no justification for these statues if Indigenous individuals don’t need them. And many, such because the Epekwitk Mi’kmaq Chiefs and leaders of the Esquimalt Nation don’t.

A Symbolic step ahead

Still, even after this, the usual conservative response is that eradicating these statues from public areas is erasing historical past. As if we had been taking a Mr. Clean magic eraser and easily scrubbing the previous. As if these protesters had been burning books and libraries. I imply, how else would we all know what occurred previously with out these statues? 

It’s only a non-sensical, knee-jerk response, with none thought ever thought-about earlier than they hit the share button.

It’s type of humorous too as a result of in lots of different historic conditions, each these on the left and the precise view the toppling of assorted statues of oppressive regimes as making historical past, not erasing it. Despite cries of “erasing history,” this is what is taking place: historical past is being made.

Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth Statues toppled

One of my first political recollections was the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Firdos Square shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. This was broadly seen by the world as a symbolic victory over a particularly repressive regime.

The revolutionary Paris Communes in 1871 had been a major affect on Marxist thought. This free coalition of commerce unions, employee’s organizations, proto-political events, and emigrant associations tried to overthrow an rising capitalist elite class and institute a type of employee’s democracy. During this revolutionary time, the Communards toppled the statue of Napoléon I as a logo of democratic victory. 

Surely, after the centuries-long historical past of genocide and apartheid of the Crown towards all Indigenous individuals of their method, eradicating a number of statues is the very least we will do as a society. More than that – it’s a essential step alongside the way in which in the direction of reconciliation. 

In the place of those outdated, colonial statues, why not erect traditionally related Indigenous leaders?

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