History Slam Repost: Decoding Monuments and Memorials


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By Sean Graham

Last month in Montreal, protesters toppled a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald. In response, Quebec Premier François Legault said that “We must fight racism, but destroying parts of our history is not the solution.” This refrain that removing statues is an effort to erase history is common from those who argue in favour of statues. That leads to the questions, though – what is the connection between a statue and history?

As someone who doesn’t particularly like statues to individuals, I wanted to re-visit a conversation I had a couple years ago with Tonya Davidson, a sociologist for Carleton. We talked about why communities commission statues, how the public interact with them, and debate their value in encouraging historical thinking. We also walked through downtown Ottawa to look at some of the city’s monuments and talk about their place within the community.

This discussion was recorded in 2018 and released as part of Episode 120.

Sean Graham is a historian with Parks Canada, an Adjunct Professor with Parks Canada, and a contributing editor with Activehistory.ca

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