As Civil War monuments are toppled across America, a city in Ontario just debuted a new one. It is the only national monument for the tens of thousands of Canadians who fought in the US civil war.
About 40,000 Canadians donned the blue and grey. Most volunteered, some were tricked, and others, even children, were kidnapped. Canadians fought in every major battle and 29 earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. Canadians stood with Ulysses S. Grant at Robert E. Lee’s surrender, and a Canadian led the troops that captured Lincoln’s assassin.
By honoring soldiers on “both sides” of the conflict, the statue could generate controversy akin to what has been seen in the US. After violence erupted at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia (billed as a protest defending a statue of Robert E. Lee), president Donald Trump condemned what he called an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides,”seeming to draw an equivalence between white supremacists and counter-protestors. In subsequent tweets, Trump also offered support for Confederate symbols, saying he was “sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.”
Confederate monuments have become increasingly controversial in the US. There are currently more than 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy in public spheres across the country, and more than 100 American schools are named after Confederate leaders.
When asked by reporters about potential criticism at the Ontario statue’s unveiling, Bob McLaughlin, president of the Civil War re-enactment group Grays and Blues of Montreal, said he wasn’t concerned. “We don’t have any far-right maniacs, racists or anti-Semites,” he told the Post. “We’re just town folks who are interested in history.”