Larger than life bronze statues of all 22 prime ministers is a bit much for a country accustomed to avoiding national pride like an ex-wife at a dinner party — there’s just too much history there.
Wilfrid Laurier University might have to revise its plan to erect statues of the country’s leaders in honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary after receiving considerable backlash.
The proposed project garnered opposition from many community members who said it sends the wrong message to fill a supposedly inclusive space with images of politicians who passed discriminatory policies against First Nations peoples.
Statues are an inherently worshipful form of art. In a country where we vote for parties and their ideologies — and more often vote against what we don’t like than for what we do — placing politicians on pedestals has never been a priority.
A lineup of party leaders is hardly representative of Canada’s current identity, nor of its past. Canadian history is much more than its politics, so presenting our political heads as representing our history is misleading.
For better or worse, these men — and one woman — did far less than many other men and women of diverse races and backgrounds to shape the country we know today.
But we often feel uncomfortable celebrating those individuals because they’re evidence of a history punctuated by colonialism, racism and cultural genocide.
National pride requires a collective identity we can all agree to be proud of.
This identity is grounded within the historical context of our relationship to the people who lived here before us — an understanding that’s still forming.
A significant anniversary provides the opportunity to look back and consider history, to talk about it and investigate the reasons why we can’t seem to look our own past in the eye.
So instead of assembling statues, Laurier can take a moment to assemble a new
idea, one the community obviously desires, about how we can celebrate Canadian nationalism without misrepresenting what it’s founded upon.
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