Hamilton

Police investigate 'Land Back' painting on Sir John A. Macdonald statue in Gore Park

Hamilton police are investigating after the Sir John A. Macdonald statue in Gore Park was covered in red paint with the words "Land Back" painted beneath it.

The words "Land Back" symbolize a social movement advocating for Indigenous rights and sovereignty

The Sir John A. Macdonald statue in Hamilton's Gore Park was power washed by cleaners on Monday morning after it was covered in red paint with the words "Land Back" painted in front of the statue. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Hamilton police are investigating after the Sir John A. Macdonald statue in Gore Park was covered in red paint with the words "Land Back" painted in front of it.

Officers responded to a report about "mischief" at the statue around 7:30 a.m. on Monday.

"It is very early in the investigation and we are working to identify those responsible for this crime and to bring them forward to answer for their actions," media relations officer Jerome Stewart said.

The words "Land Back" symbolize a social movement that advocates for Indigenous rights and sovereignty.

Cleaners were soaping and soaking the statue in downtown Hamilton, at the corner of King Street East and John Street South, on Monday.

Adrianne Xavier, director of McMaster University's Indigenous Studies Program, who is also from Six Nations of the Grand River, said it's unsurprising a statue of the country's first prime minister was the site of a demonstration.

In recent years, concerns about Macdonald's actions and policies — including introducing a Chinese head tax and creating Canada's residential school system — have made his statues targets for activists across Canada.

"Sir John A. would be really easily identifiable as someone who was part of the history of what is now understood to be Indigenous genocide in Canada," Xavier said in an interview on Monday.

"If we were to look at this as cut and dry, I understand what the police are saying. The reality is when people are pushed to a point where they need to make a statement and are emboldened to do something like this, why? I would ask why people feel like this is the only way they can be heard. And if we think about it that way then I'm more likely to ask what it is someone has experienced that makes this their only recourse."

The Sir John A. Macdonald statue was mostly cleaned up by noon on Monday. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)
The words "Land Back" were painted in front of the Sir John A. Macdonald statue in downtown Hamilton. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

By noon, most of the paint had been washed away.

As cleaners worked to restore the statue, a lone busker played O Canada on his electric guitar.

Phillip Monson, a regular busker in the city's core, decided to play in front of Macdonald's statue with Remembrance Day coming up — but when he saw the statue, he was in shock.

"It's a slap in the face to the forefathers of Canada ... I just think it's disrespectful," he said.

Despite some criticizing the demonstration and vandalism at the statue, Xavier said Canadians need to be more educated about the country's Indigenous history.

"It creates a situation where Indigenous people are responsible for attempting to educate others about the history we've experienced. It should not be only our jobs," she said.

"I hope we are all working very hard to know the full history of our country."

With files from CBC News

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