A group of Conservative MPs holding a rally in Regina's Victoria Park Thursday morning to voice support for the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald that stands there were met by protesters calling for the statue's removal.
The event was hosted by Andrew Scheer, MP for Regina-Qu'Appelle, Michael Kram, who represents Regina-Wascana, and Warren Steinley, the MP for Regina-Lewvan. They hosted the event both in-person at the statue and virtually, as a Zoom call with about 19 people.
Calls to remove the Regina statue of Canada's first prime minister go back to 2017.
A new petition advocating for the statue to be removed was started earlier this summer and has since been signed by more than 2,600 people.
WATCH | Conservative MPs clash with protesters over Regina statue:
Those opposed to the statue say it should come down due to the fact that Macdonald created the blueprint for residential schools and deliberately starved Indigenous peoples on the plains to force them into submission.
Some said the statue should be placed in a museum or the Saskatchewan Legislature, others suggested it should be destroyed.
The City of Regina has launched a review of the statue, and Mayor Michael Fougere met with protestors calling for its removal in early July.
As the MPs at Thursday's rally spoke, protesters shouted over them.
"How about we have children removed from your home and then we can talk about who did it and if they're a good person," yelled one person as Kram spoke.
"None of us are perfect," Kram said. "We cannot allow our history to be rewritten by an angry mob."
In a statement, Scheer, Kram and Steinley said they created the event to encourage residents to show their support for the statue. They said the event was organized after protesters recently tore down a statue of Macdonald in Montreal.
Scheer said the Regina statue is a celebration of Macdonald's positive contributions to Canada and "his role in the creation of the greatest country in the world."
"I want my children to grow up in a country where we celebrate great people," he said.
Canada doesn't build statues of people because they are perfect, Scheer said, but to celebrate the positives.
He acknowledged many decisions made in Macdonald's era have had negative consequences, but said that taking down statues will mean people won't remember positive contributions.
"I think it's important because Canada is such a great country, we need to honour the people that helped build it, create it and that's why I hope the City of Regina keeps the Macdonald statue," Scheer said.
Protestors say removal wouldn't erase history
Saima Desai, one of the protestors who showed up to the rally, said Indigenous people, people of colour and Caucasian people were all there united against the statue and that removing it doesn't destroy history.
"That history still exists," she said. "It still exists in the history books, it still exists in the trauma that Indigenous people carry here on Treaty 4 territory."
"There are people living on this territory today ... whose families were deliberately starved by that man standing on a pedestal over there."
What we're saying is we will no longer put racists and we will no longer put people who have attempted genocide against Indigenous people on a literal pedestal. - Saima Desai
Desai said history cannot be erased.
She said the protestors' message is simply that given Macdonald's legacy, he should not have a statue in Victoria Park.
"What we're saying is we will no longer put racists and we will no longer put people who have attempted genocide against Indigenous people on a literal pedestal," she said.
Regina police were called while the MPs were speaking to protestors.
Police say officers were called to a "disturbance" in Victoria Park. When officers arrived, there were no protestors present at the statue.