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Queen Victoria and Elizabeth II statues toppled in Canada amid anger at deaths of Indigenous children

Statues brought down as part of protests at treatment of Indigenous children in notorious residential schools

Statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II have been toppled in Canada amid growing outrage over the discovery of unmarked graves belonging to Indigenous children.

Jul 2, 2021: Protesters in Manitoba have pulled down a statue of Queen Victoria outside the state legislature as outrage grows over the discovery of unmarked graves belonging to indigenous children sent to the country’s notorious residential schools. A smaller statue of Elizabeth II was also toppled on the east side of the grounds. Both royals are seen as representative of the country’s colonial history.

A group gathered at the Manitoba legislature in Winnipeg pulled down the statue of Victoria on Canada Day – an annual celebration on 1 July that marks the country’s confederation.

Members of the group, wearing orange shirts to honour Indigenous children sent to the country’s notorious residential schools, covered the statue and its plinth in red handprints and left a sign that read “We were children once. Bring them home.”

A smaller statue of Elizabeth was also toppled on the east side of the grounds. Both royals are seen as representative of the country’s colonial history.

At least 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families to attend the schools over a century as part of the campaign by the government to forcefully assimilate the children into Canadian society.

Jul 1, 2021: In Canada, more than 1,000 unmarked graves have been discovered on the grounds of former church-run residential schools, where an estimated 150,000 First Nations children were sent as part of a campaign of forced assimilation for more than a century until 1996.

On Thursday, the Lower Kootenay Band announced they had discovered 182 human remains in unmarked graves at a former residential school— the latest in a series of grim discoveries that have shocked the country.

The recent discoveries had previously led to calls from Indigenous groups to not celebrate Canada Day.

“We will not celebrate stolen Indigenous land and stolen indigenous lives. Instead we will gather to honour all of the lives lost to the Canadian state,” said the group Idle No More, calling for national rallies to support Indigenous communities.

In Ottawa, thousands gathered on Parliament Hill for the “Cancel Canada Day” rally, shouting “Shame on Canada” and “Bring them home”.

Prime minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged the sombre tone of the federal holiday has taken on this year, an event typically marked with fireworks, picnics and downtown parties.

“The horrific findings of the remains of hundreds of children at the sites of former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan have rightly pressed us to reflect on our country’s historic failures, and the injustices that still exist for Indigenous peoples and many others in Canada,” he said in a statement. “We as Canadians must be honest with ourselves about our past.”

On Thursday, Calgary police announced that 10 churches in the city had been vandalized overnight with orange and red paint. One just had a window smashed so paint could be thrown inside. Police say painted handprints and “215”— a reference to the first discovery of unmarked graves by the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pem in late May—suggested the vandalism was linked to outrage over the unmarked graves.

Jun 30, 2021: Pressure for a papal apology for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools is growing with the discovery of other unmarked grave sites near the location of a former residential school — this time near Cranbrook B.C. It’s unclear who was buried in the shallow graves, or how and when they died.

Protestors have increasingly targeted historical figures that were complicit in the establishment and operation of the schools, which lasted more than a century.

Last month, protesters also pulled down the statue of Egerton Ryerson in Toronto. A prominent figure, Ryerson is widely seen as an architect of the country’s residential school system.

In the UK, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “We condemn any defacing of statues of the Queen. Our thoughts are with Canada’s indigenous communities following these tragic discoveries.”


Published by amongthefray

News with a historical perspective. Fighting against misinformation, hate, and revisionist history.

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