Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was deeply disappointed over the toppling of a statue of the country’s first premier, John A. MacDonald, who was linked to policies that killed many indigenous people in the late 19th Century.
Addressing reporters on Monday in Montreal, where the incident took place on August 26, Trudeau said that while some of the country’s past leaders have done questionable things, acts of destruction are not the best way to advance the fight for equality, reports Xinhua news agency.
“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, and those kinds of acts of vandalism are not advancing the path towards greater justice and equality in this country,” he said.
Trudeau said he understood the impatience and frustration of Canadians who face systemic discrimination and racism and the desire to act quickly, adding that his government “will do just that”.
The Macdonald statue in Montreal was brought down and decapitated by activists during a demonstration calling on political leaders to defund police, which was part of a wave of protests across the country against excessive violence perpetrated by law enforcement against black and indigenous people.
Images posted on social media showed the statue was decapitated on the ground and sprayed with graffiti.
Macdonald’s statues across Canada have been repeatedly defaced and placed under review by critics calling out the “harmful legacy” left by the leader, who has been credited as a father of Canadian Confederation.
The demonstrators said the glorification of Macdonald is out of step with the modern push for racial justice.
MacDonald was Prime Minister for 19 years in the 1860s-1890s and is remembered for his nation-building policies but he also created the residential schools system, a BBC report said last week.
For more than a century, the system forcibly removed at least 150,000 indigenous children from their homes and sent them to state-funded boarding schools.
Many children were abused and some died, and they were were forbidden from speaking their own language or practising their culture.
A government report in 2015 called the practice “cultural genocide”.
He was also accused of allowing famine and disease to kill many indigenous people and his government forced some First Nation communities to leave their traditional territories, withholding food until they did so.