What was left of Sir John A. Macdonald’s Montreal statue after the fall (Photo: Twitter, posted by Le Journal de Montreal).

The death toll from the fall of John A. Macdonald’s statue in Montreal Saturday still stands at zero, the gods be praised.

One would have thought it was much higher, however, given all the outraged virtue signalling from Conservative politicians and their “issues managers” here on the western edge of the Great Plains.

Sir John begins his plunge … (Photo: Screenshot of bystander’s video, Twitter).

The chirp of outraged tweets was so deafening for a spell one would almost have thought an army of infuriated crickets was marching into battle.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, in high dudgeon, declared the fall of the statue to be the work of “a lawless band of thugs” who were attempting “to erase history.” Elsewhere, drawing yet more inspiration from the defenders of Confederate statuary south of the 49th Parallel, he exclaimed: “This vandalism of our history and heroes must stop.”

With a sly dogwhistle at the Quebec authorities, Mr. Kenney offered to re-erect the monument here in Wild Rose Country, where presumably it would be safer than in a province where, bien sur, they don’t even treat the Language of Shakespeare with reverence.

Presumably here in Anglosaxophone Alberta (AA), Sir John’s blessed memory can be protected by that vigilante militia the UCP is pondering to assist in the rule of law when chronically underfunded lawful authorities are temporarily unavailable.

Many of Mr. Kenney’s cabinet ministers, press secretaries and issues managers were soon tweeting much the same words, with barely a hint of nuance that might acknowledge, as embarrassing as this may now be, that Canada’s first prime minister, political clever boots though he may have been, was also a repugnant racist with Indigenous blood on his hands.

Premier Kenney is younger than me, but not all that much, so it is possible the teachers at the private schools he attended were still using the same social studies curriculum I was taught in public school the 1950s and 60s, in which plenty was said about Prime Minister Macdonald, but very little of it other than the bit about the heavy drinking was negative.

Many of the premier’s twittering cabinet ministers and most of his issues managers, however, are men and women of the 20th Century, at least, and you’d think some of them might have noticed. Apparently not.

… Continues downward … (Photo: Screenshot of bystander’s video, Twitter).

Erin O’Toole, the latest Conservative to qualify for public housing in Ottawa, weighed in with a tweet that asserted, “Canada wouldn’t exist without Sir John A. Macdonald.”

This also suggests a deficiency with the social studies curriculum in Ontario, where the new Conservative Opposition Leader spent most of his school years, since it is most certainly the case that the idea of building a unified nation state in British North America in the mid-19th Century was an urgent project of the Colonial Office in London. The Crown, after all, faced the prospect of a reunited United States emerging from the Civil War, battle hardened, armed to the teeth and ready to revive the notion of manifest destiny to bind that nation’s self-inflicted wounds.

Speaking of social studies curricula, it sounds very much as if the one Mr. Kenney, his education minister, and his colonial champion Christian Champion intend to restore is the tendentious narrative in which John A. Macdonald does no wrong.

As for the American Civil War, it was astonishing how these defenders of the Conservative faith in Prime Minister Macdonald’s legacy took their arguments, pretty much word for word, from the talking points of those who defend the preservation of monuments celebrating the heroes of the Confederacy as a defence of history.

Regardless of the merits of spontaneously toppling public statuary, which I grant the Internet’s many self-appointed “centrists” is a topic of worthy debate, it is an indisputable fact that such stuff is erected to celebrate the deeds of the subjects, not to explain them.

… And is separated from his head (Photo: Screenshot of bystander’s video, Twitter).

Which is why, presumably, so many of the same people who nearly fainted from outrage at the thought of John Macdonald’s effiginous head rolling across the sward in Montreal cheer whenever a mob pulls down a statue of, say, Saddam Hussein, Joseph Stalin or even Karl Marx in some other land. It’s all a matter of perspective, I suppose.

Which brings us back to the business of the death toll from The Outrage in Montreal Saturday.

For some reason the small but noisy Western separatist set in these parts, which has been carefully nurtured by Mr. Kenny as a faux threat to national unity that only Conservatives can defang, seemed to take the insult to Canada’s first prime minister as a particular affront.

So for a while yesterday I was afraid some lonely Wexiter might soon perish from apoplexy at the thought of the prime ministerial head rolling through the streets of Montreal, local police officers dismissing the matter with a Gallic shrug.

Now, why someone who dislikes Canada so much they’d like a permanent divorce from the place would be so upset by an insult to its first prime minister is a question for the experts. At a guess, though, it’s probably because John A. Macdonald was a racist and many of them are too.

As for the intense interest among the UCP’s strategic elite, it’s probably as simple as this: I imagine they’d rather we were all yammering about the fate Sir John’s graven head than what happens when Alberta’s crowded classrooms reopen later this week in the middle of a pandemic that has already resulted in a significant death toll.

So what about the premier’s irresponsible school reopening plan? Never mind that! Look over there!

IMPORTANT NOTE: Thank you to all who wished me well on my vacation in B.C. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a vacation but a serious family matter that will soon require another trip west and that will probably result in fewer posts than readers are used to. Normal publication will resume as soon as possible. DJC

Join the Conversation


  1. I was hoping your traveling was for a nice summer break, sorry that is not the case.

    It is amusing that Mr. Kenney who can’t seem to clearly decide whether he wants in or out, has recently become such a defender of Mr. Macdonald. If he were alive, I am sure Macdonald wouldn’t stand for such dithering and would hoist Kenney on his own pompous petard.

    In any event, the Premier of Quebec seems to have made the point moot by saying he would like to re-erect the statue. Perhaps Mr. Kenney doesn’t know his Canadian history very well. Mr. Macdonald actually won a lot of seats in Quebec in his time, far more than any of his Conservative successors, although a few of his PC succesors briefly did as well or better. No, I don’t think the problem with Macdonald is a particularily a Quebec thing, but perhaps Kenney is trying to play to the crowd that is still unhappy about French on their corn flakes boxes.

    Doesn’t Mr. Kenney have a province to govern rather than always playing Federal politics? On a brighter note, I doubt anyone will ever knock down a statue of Kenney in the distant future, as there will probably never be one. His pettiness and meanspiritedness is unlikely to ever be confused for greatness.

  2. The irony is if Kenney and company manage to re-erect the statue of Sir John A in Wildrose country it will be a group of Wexiters who will tear it back down. They have no use for this entity called Canada. It’s USA all the way for them. Didn’t some of them just erect a billboard the other day calling on Alberta to join the US?

    They should be careful what they wish for. The ruling classes in the US have officially sanctioned racial identity politics as a means of dividing and conquer. Citizens are now required to recite BLM slogans before they go to bed in the evening in lieu of prayers. Go for it.

  3. Strange, that the Alberta right rightwing missed the history of Alberta by such a wide margin. MacDonald was never Prime Minister of Alberta. By 1905 his corruption and personality had caught up with him. He was awarded the Canadian order of the Big Boot years earlier . It was ( horrors ) a liberal who brought Alberta into the confederation and was the first Prime Minister of Alberta.

  4. MacDonald and Sifton, his interior Minister were hard men working in an evil time. The London foreign office was no doubt aware of the horrifying use of the US military to carry out ethnic cleansing of the aboriginal population in the west. This gave impetus to both aboriginal nations and the mother country to conclude treaties to formalize the relationship on a more peaceful basis in Canada after some 400 years of the mutually beneficial fur trade.

    Perhaps it was the collapse of the fur trade, rather like the collapse of the oil industry, which gave MacDonald and Sifton the idea to introduce residential schools for a First Nations population suddenly without income from the fur trade. Or perhaps they were simply racist drunks intent on a slower cultural ethnic cleansing of the “inconvenient Indians” using residential schools. As with most historical questions, both could be accurate without either being the whole truth.

    Anyway, the event in Montreal this week would not be the first time MacDonald lost his head and tumbled down. But watching Kenney and his crowd of bigots makes me want to emulate MacDonald and throw up.

  5. Mr. Climenhaga,

    Congratulations for this post. Through humor and intelligence, you quite effectively teach political matters, always pointing out what is beyond the immediate scene. Here in Montreal, we have a few like you. But none I know has shown your acumen yet. Let’s hope some followers of yours will some day flourish near the St. Lawrence River!

  6. I am sorry for the difficulties you are experiencing, David, and apologize for my ‘enjoy your holiday post’ earlier.

    I think John A MacDonald’s attitudes and actions were not all that out of line vis-a-vis the era he lived in. In other words, he was just reflecting the society Canada was at the time, and that is a shame on all of us.

    Jason Kenney would clearly prefer John A’s legacy not be questioned with the benefit of hindsight. I can see why he would feel that way; he probably already knows his own legacy will not stand the test of time.

  7. Is it too much of a coincidence that on Saturday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw changed her health order regarding distancing and masks in schools? Parents have already made their “choices”, based in the information they had at the time. So now, the rules have changed under cover of statuary. The timing of the outrage seems oddly convenient. Look over there, all facing the same direction, because you won’t hear about the change until her next press conference, after school has already started. It’s enough to make literal heads roll.

    I’m sorry that you are facing challenges in a time that is already challenging enough. Family comes first.

  8. If a non-medical mask works as an adjunct to physical distancing for protection against COVID-19, and physical distancing has been removed for school children, how long will it be before all of the pandemic health and safety measures taken by municipalities and school boards to protect Albertans are struck down by this government via its CMOH?

    This is not going to end well for the people of Alberta, as we head into flu season. A government that cares not for its people should be worried about other things that topple, aside from statues.

    And will the federal funding for safe school re-entry be laundered and hung out to dry in the War Room? Alberta’s children don’t need protection, but statues — now we’re talking! Spend it on safe sanctuary for disrespected bronzes. An ode to ruins and ruination seems appropriate.

  9. “the latest to qualify for public housing in Ottawa…”
    As a Tory MP from faraway Durham Region, Mr. O already enjoys a fine shelter subsidy.
    As for the Official Opposition leader’s residence, the drafty Stornoway, perhaps your O’Toole supporting premier Mr. Kenney could instead give him a hot deal on the fancy condo he owned while he was hiding out in his mother’s basement in downtown Calgary. Walking distance to Parliament Hill.

  10. Once you destroy your past what keeps you together?

    I think you are underestimating the issue with “sanitization” of the past. The decisions of the past have allowed some countries to hold together and some countries to fail.

    Stable countries benefit their citizens, unless you think war torn countries are a great place to live?

  11. I must thank you for another really good blog. Sir John A MacDonald has a very tainted history, and we can’t deny this. His treatment of the First Nations and the Metis in Canada is appalling. When you have the likes of Jason Kenney trying to say the statue should come to Alberta, something is clearly wrong. When Erin O’Toole tries to endorse Sir John A MacDonald, something is also wrong. These people, as well as Christian Champion, have a twisted sense of Canada’s history. The UCP also are deflecting from the major debt they are piling onto Albertans. The UCP’s school reopening contradictions and flip flops, isn’t going to have a positive outcome. It is mindboggling how the UCP operates the way it does.

  12. Actually, I think it’s pretty easy to explain the Wexiters’ collective conniptions. John A. was Canada’s first CONSERVATIVE prime minister. (Him being an openly racist guy is just icing on their cake.) Cue “Those Were the Days,” theme from All in the Family.

    Lord Jason’s fixation with John A’s downfall is–SQUIRREL!!–is just part and parcel of his recent attempts to distract the peons from–SQUIRREL!!–from the many and various blunders–SQUIRREL!!–dogging the UCP lately. Between the war on–SQUIRREL!!–on doctors, the non-plan to protect–SQUIRREL!!–protect school kids from Covid-19; the resurgence of Covid–SQUIRREL!!–cases in Alberta; I could go on but–SQUIRREL!!–you get–SQUIRREL!!–you–SQUIRREL!!–get the–SQUIRREL!!–idea. (Hey, look–SQUIRREL!!)

  13. I believe no one shouted louder when Sir John A. MacDonald was toppled from his weird Corinthian arch and thrown to the ground. And then…his head popped off. It was among the funniest things I have ever seen.

    Of course, Jason “Daddy Warbucks” Kenney jumped in and offered to claim the remains of MacDonald’s bronzed hulk, so it could be placed in an exulted position in the Alberta Taj Mahal. (aka. the Leg) If I was the Mayor of Montreal, I would demand an exorbitant sum for the wreckage. And Kenney would cough it up because…he gotta have it, now.

  14. Macdonald was indeed a racist. However, so were the vast majority of politicians on both sides of the aisle in his day. The overt bigotry — on racial, ethnic, sectarian and linguistic grounds — of both Conservative & Liberal politicians in the late 19th & early 20th centuries is undeniable (I recently read a book by John Duffy on Canadian political history that exposed this far more starkly than anything I’d ever read before). This doesn’t excuse his own bigotry, but does provide context. He was, and did, no better, and no worse, than his peers. If we tear down his statues and erase his name from other public buildings, we’re going to have to do the same with each & every historical figure from our nation’s founding. That seems too radical even for a political radical like me.

    Instead, maybe we just replace the plaques on their pedestals with more balanced historical descriptions of their flaws as well as their virtues.


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