Bank Of Montreal replaces plaques commemorating killing of Iroquois chief
BMO sought federal approval first because Place d'Armes square building is a heritage site
After years of criticism from Indigenous communities, the Bank of Montreal (BMO) has removed two stone plaques from the facade of a building in Montreal's tourist sector that commemorated the killing of an Iroquois chief in 1644.
The plaques, one in English and the other in French, told the tale of the founder of Montreal, Paul de Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve, who killed the chief "with his own hands. March 1644.'"
Calls to take down the stones grew last year as people across the country began debating what to do with statues and other historic markers that were deemed offensive to Indigenous peoples.
On Tuesday, workers had removed the offending plaques and were readying to replace them with new stones whose message excluded the line about Maisonneuve's busy hands.
A less provocative stone rested at the feet of one worker and read: "Near this square, afterwards named la Place d'Armes, the founders of Ville Marie first encountered the Iroquois whom they defeated in March 1644.''
Michael Rice, who said he first complained to the bank about the plaques in 1992, has "mixed feelings'' about BMO's decision and the new message on the stones.
He never wanted the bank to remove the markers entirely, he said. Rather, he just wanted another plaque to be installed beside the other ones, to give the Iroquois perspective.
Rice said he called the bank about a year ago to ask, once again, if they could change the message on the building's facade.
"What's so difficult about putting another plaque underneath, saying the Iroquois were trying to defend their territory?'' he asked. "They weren't fighting for nothing.''
For Rice, leaving out the Iroquois' intentions to protect their territory helps to erase their history on the island of Montreal.
The Bank of Montreal building in Place d'Armes square has been designated a heritage site. Authorization was needed by the Quebec government before the two stones markers could be touched.
BMO spokesman François Morin said in an email: "Today, BMO replaced two stone plaques, one in French and one in English, on the building facade in the historic Place d'Armes square, across from a statue of Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve, founder of Montreal.''
"Last June, BMO sought approval from the Quebec Ministry of Culture, because the building has heritage designation, to remove the plaques in order to change a false sentence referring to the death of the Iroquois chief.''
The Culture Department didn't immediately return a request for comment.
Debates are ongoing across the country on how to commemorate history in a way that includes Indigenous perspectives.
Earlier this year, Halifax's city council decided to remove a statue paying tribute to Col. Edward Cornwallis, who founded Halifax in 1749 and soon after issued a bounty on Mi'kmaq scalps in response to an attack on colonists.
The Mi'kmaq have long called for removal of tributes to Cornwallis, some calling his actions a form of genocide.