John A. Macdonald statue vandalized in Montreal

An anonymous group claimed responsibility for the vandalism, saying Canada's first prime minister was a "colonialist" who "contributed to the genocide of Indigenous peoples."

The monument, located at Place du Canada, was defaced overnight ahead of protest

The John A. Macdonald statue in downtown Montreal was vandalized overnight. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

The John A. Macdonald monument at Place du Canada in downtown Montreal was vandalized with paint on Saturday night or early Sunday morning.

The statue dedicated to Canada's first prime minister and a Father of Confederation is covered in red from his head to the base of the monument bearing his name.

Montreal police say they are looking into the incident.

Nicholas Clyde Griffith, who works as a security guard and caretaker for the park, said he noticed the vandalism just before noon Sunday.

"When I leave, any time between 5 p.m. to the next morning, they can do whatever," he said. "No one is here at two o'clock in the morning."

Clyde Griffith said this isn't the first time the statue has been targeted.

"It's happened before," he said. "We used a special paint remover last time."

The vandalism comes a day after a war memorial was defaced in Montreal on Remembrance Day. The memorial was promptly cleaned up and police have since launched an investigation.

Group takes responsibility

An anonymous group has taken responsibility for painting John A. Macdonald's statue, claiming the defacing took place ahead of today's planned anti-racist demonstration — but say they are not affiliated with the protest.

Protest organizers also told Radio-Canada they were not involved with the vandalism.

The group posted a video online showing the act of vandalism along with a message stating that Macdonald was a "colonialist," and that he "contributed to the genocide of Indigenous peoples."

The debate over Macdonald's contentious legacy resurfaced in Canada in recent months as groups in the United States have been protesting the presence of statues celebrating the Confederacy, saying they glorify the nation's history of racism.

There have been calls to take statues of Macdonald down, as well as to rename Canadian schools bearing his epithet.

Though Macdonald is known for his role in the creation of Canada as a country, he's been called an architect of the country's abusive residential school system and of other policies that sought to rip Indigenous peoples away from their language and culture.

There has been a movement to include more of that dark past in Canadian history books.

The anti-racism protest is set to end at Place du Canada, right in front of the newly vandalized monument.

Park caretaker Nicholas Clyde Griffith says this isn't the first time the statue has been targeted. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

With files from Simon Nakonechny and Radio-Canada