Statues of Britain’s Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth II and explorer Captain James Cook have been toppled and desecrated by a violent mob during protests across Canada on its national day over the discovery of mass graves of indigenous schoolchildren.
In scenes reminiscent of the BLM protests where a ‘hit list’ of ‘racist’ statues was drawn up for destruction after the murder of George Floyd, the bronze sculptures of Britain’s current monarch and her great-great grandmother in Winnipeg were hauled down, daubed with red paint and even appeared to have been strangled with Mohawk flags.
With no police to be seen anywhere, protesters in orange led by members of the left-wing anti-colonial ‘Idle No More’ group, who are campaigning for Canada Day to be canceled, tied ropes to the necks of the statues and ripped them to the ground to chants of ‘no to genocide’ and ‘bring her down’ amid fury over the deaths of 1,000 indigenous children found buried in mass graves over the last month.
Between the 18th century and the 1970s, 150,000 indigenous Canadian children were forced to convert to Christianity and not allowed to speak their native languages after being sent to Catholic schools.
Many were beaten and verbally abused, and up to 6,000 are said to have died, but the policy of the Canadian Government appears to have little to do with the British Royal Family, who are ceremonial heads of state.
Yesterday’s protests in Canada raise the prospect of them spreading to the US and similar investigations into mass graves there after claims of neglect, abuse and death.
In the United States, monuments to figures now deemed racist or problematic by activists have been removed from sites across the country.
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A gigantic statue of Queen Victoria has been torn down and daubed in red paint in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Canada Day as a backlash over the country’s colonial history ramps up
Canada became an independent state in 1867 but Queen Elizabeth II remain’s Canada’s constitutional monarch and is still seen as representative of colonialism but some Canadians. This is her statue before and after it was torn down
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was ‘terribly saddened’ by the new discovery at Marieval Indian Residential School, and told indigenous people that ‘the hurt and the trauma that you feel is Canada´s responsibility to bear.. Justin Trudeau visits the makeshift memorial erected in honor of the 215 indigenous children remains found at a boarding school in British Columbia, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 1
In particular, statues of Confederate figures in the South have been toppled in the wake of the police killing Floyd, which sparked nationwide protests demanding an end to systemic racism.
Statues that paid tribute to the likes of Christopher Columbus, Robert E. Lee and George Washington were among those removed or defaced during anti-racism protests.
While there’s no official number of statues taken down over the last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center previously revealed that 168 Confederate symbols were removed in 2020, including 94 monuments.
The United States is also grappling with historical treatment of Native Americans. Hundreds of Native American boarding schools were also established in the United States during the early 19th and mid 20th centuries to ‘civilize’ Native American children into Euro-American culture.
As many as 40,000 Native American children may have died from care at government-run boarding schools around the US, a researcher has claimed, prompting a federal investigation to address the trauma’s ‘intergenerational impact.’
US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a June 22 memo that her department will prepare a report that identifies federal boarding school facilities, map out the locations of known and possible student burial sites, and learn the identities and tribal affiliations of the children.
In her memo, Haaland – a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe and first Native American Cabinet Secretary – said most indigenous parents could not visit their children at these schools, where some were abused, killed and buried in unmarked graves.
‘Survivors of the traumas of boarding school policies carried their memories into adulthood as they became the aunts and uncles, parents, and grandparents to subsequent generations,’ Haaland wrote in her memo.
‘The loss of those who did not return left an enduring need in their families for answers that, in many cases, were never provided. Distance, time, and the scattering of school records have made it more difficult, if not impossible, for their families to locate a loved one’s final resting place and bring closure through the appropriate ceremonies.’
That’s why she’s directing the Department of the Interior to undertake this investigation and address the ‘intergenerational impact’ of Indian boarding schools ‘to shed light on the traumas of the past.’
‘While it may be difficult to learn of the traumas suffered in the boarding school era, understanding its impacts on communities today cannot occur without acknowledging that painful history,’ she said.
US interior secretary Deb Haaland said in a June 22 memo that the US federal government will investigate US-run boarding schools for Native Americans following a Dartmouth scholar’s grim discovery that ‘it’s quite likely 40,000 children died ‘ in these institutions
The investigation comes after Preston McBride, a Dartmouth College scholar, documented at least 1,000 deaths from 1879 to 1934 at just four of the over 500 schools.
Haaland, in an essay published on June 11 in the Washington Post, said the news from Canada made her ‘sick to my stomach.’
‘Many Americans may be alarmed to learn that the United States also has a history of taking Native children from their families in an effort to eradicate our culture and erase us as people,’ wrote Haaland.
For over 150 years, hundreds of thousands of Indigenous children were uprooted from their communities and forced into US government-operated boarding schools that focused on assimilation.
Before shutting down in 1918, the Carlisle school housed some 10,000 indigenous children.
Many students were forced to cut their braids, dress in uniforms, speak English and adopt European names. Infectious diseases and harsh conditions claimed the lives of many children buried there.
The deaths were primarily from diseases made far more lethal in many of the schools because of poor treatment.
Extraordinary footage of Queen Victoria’s Winnipeg statue being toppled in broad daylight showed hundreds of people cheering and squealing with joy as she fell, before many began dancing with joy on the fallen figure and its plinth while waving Canadian indigenous flags. The statue of the current Queen, yards away, was brought down soon afterwards.
1,500 miles west, a statue of Captain Cook – the first Briton to land in British Columbia – was also pulled down in the city of Victoria before being hurled in the harbor in scenes reminiscent of the destruction of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol last year.
Cook’s statue was replaced by a red wooden dress – a color and symbol for indigenous people in Canada with the plinth vandalized with ‘colonizer.’
A nearby statue of Queen Victoria is taped off after being covered in paint – but a mob failed to destroy it – and at least ten churches were also desecrated overnight.
Queen Elizabeth’s statue was also torn down amid growing anger in Canada over the treatment of its indigenous communities over hundreds of years
The defaced statue after being toppled during a rally, following the discovery of the remains of hundreds of children at former indigenous residential schools, outside the provincial legislature on Canada Day in Winnipeg
Victoria’s face appears to have been smothered with a flag with a rope used to tear it down before it was covered in paint
One protester places a boot on Queen Victoria’s toppled statue in Winnipeg
A wooden red dress symbolizing the struggle of indigenous people in Canada and severed bronze leg of Capt. James Cook’s statue in Victoria, British Columbia, where the monument was pulled down by a crowd and dumped into the harbor. ‘Colonizer’ was daubed on the plinth
The vandalism took place after a group of protesters gathered at the Manitoba legislature and then pulled down the statue of Victoria on Canada Day – an annual celebration on July 1 that marks the country’s confederation – with Victoria’s plinth covered in hand prints to represent the dead children
Huge crowds gathered to watch the statue fall, with hundreds screaming and cheering as the statue came down
Protesters who also brought their children stood on the statue and the plinth and covered the bronze with red paint representing blood
The attacks have been spearheaded by Idle No More, a left-wing organization that describes itself as ‘a grassroots advocacy group, opposing unilateral & colonial legislation’ in Canada, but also campaigns on global issues including for Justin Trudeau to sanction Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.
Prime Minister Trudeau said recently he was ‘terribly saddened’ by the discovery at Marieval Indian Residential School, and told indigenous people that ‘the hurt and the trauma that you feel is Canada´s responsibility to bear.’
The vandalism took place across the North American country yesterday – on Canada Day – amid fury over the gruesome discovery of more than 1,000 Indigenous children’s graves – with at least ten churches also desecrated last night.
Amid growing fury over the scandal coinciding with Canada Day yesterday, Queen Victoria’s statue was toppled in Winnipeg, in the central Canadian province of Manitoba, before being covered in red paint with a message that read ‘we were children once. Bring them home.’
A smaller statue of Elizabeth was also toppled in the same area, with protesters insisting both royals are the face of Canada’s colonial history.
The Canadian flag on the Peace Tower in Ottawa was flown at half-mast to honor indigenous children, as was the flag on the central tower of the Quebec National Assembly.
‘This year, the tragic history of residential schools has overshadowed Canada Day celebrations,’ said Quebec premier Francois Legault.
But opposition leader Erin O’Toole defended Canada Day. ‘The road to reconciliation does not start by tearing Canada down,’ the Conservative leader said, admitting that Canada is ‘not a perfect country.’
Protests in support of the indigenous children also took place on Thursday in Toronto, Canada’s financial hub, while a #CancelCanadaDay march in the capital Ottawa drew thousands in support of victims and survivors of the residential school system.
In his Canada Day message, Trudeau said the discoveries of the remains of the children at the former schools ‘have rightfully pressed us to reflect on our country’s historical failures’. Injustices still exist for indigenous peoples and many others in Canada, he said.
The row intensified earlier this month when indigenous group in Canada’s Saskatchewan province said it had found the unmarked graves of 751 people at a now-defunct Catholic residential school where tribal children were ‘assimilated’ into society.
It comes just one month after 215 children were found at another residential school near Kamloops, British Columbia – taking the total to more than 1,000.
The Marieval Indian Residential School remains were found after the First Nation teamed up with an underground radar detection team from Saskatchewan Polytechnic just over three weeks ago.
Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme said that the graves were marked at one time, but that the Roman Catholic Church that operated the school had removed the markers.
‘Canada will be known as a nation who tried to exterminate the First Nations. Now we have evidence,’ said Bobby Cameron, Chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan.
‘This is just the beginning.’
‘This was a crime against humanity, an assault on First Nations,’ said Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous First Nations in Saskatchewan. He said he expects more graves will be found on residential school grounds across Canada.
‘We will not stop until we find all the bodies,’ he said.
Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report in 2015 said: ‘Many students who went to residential school never returned. They were lost to their families.
‘They died at rates that were far higher than those experienced by the general school-aged population.
‘Their parents were often uninformed of their sickness and death. They were buried away from their families in long-neglected graves.’
There were even calls to cancel Canada Day over the discovery of the dead children – Victoria’s face is covered by a Mohawk society flag
Red hand prints are seen on the statue of Capt. James Cook, who is branded a ‘colonizer’
Lucy Sager, visits a growing memorial as another Indigenous community in British Columbia this week
The area of the Marieval Indian Residential School is seen in an undated map on the Cowessess Reserve near Grayson, Saskatchewan, Canada
NOW and THEN: The site of Marieval Indian Residential School, left today, and right in 1923
From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 First Nations children were required to attend state-funded Christian schools as part of a program to assimilate them into Canadian society. Indigenous boys of the Indian School of Marieval in 1934
215 pairs of children’s shoes are seen on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery as a memorial to the 215 children whose remains were found last month
The children whose remains were found last month were students at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia (pictured) that closed in 1978
The Kamloops school was established in 1890 and operated until 1969, its roll peaking at 500 during the 1950s when it was the largest in the country. Children were banned from speaking their own language or practicing any of their customs. This undated archival photo shows a group of young girls at the school
The Canadian government apologized in Parliament in 2008 and admitted that physical and sexual abuse in the schools was rampant.
Many students recall being beaten for speaking their native languages; they also lost touch with their parents and customs.
Indigenous leaders have cited that legacy of abuse and isolation as the root cause of epidemic rates of alcoholism and drug addiction on reservations.
Last month the remains of 215 children, some as young as three years old, were found buried on the site of what was once Canada’s largest Indigenous residential school near Kamloops, British Columbia.
Those youngsters were students at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia that closed in 1978, according to the Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc Nation, which said the remains were found with the help of a ground penetrating radar specialist.
None of them have been identified, and it remains unclear how they died. Survivors fear more bodies will be found at the same site – as well as at the 80 other former residential school sites across Canada.
The Kamloops discovery reopened old wounds in Canada about the lack of information and accountability around the residential school system, which forcibly separated indigenous children from their families and subjected them to malnutrition and physical and sexual abuse.
‘The Pope needs to apologize for what happened,’ Delorme said. ‘An apology is one stage in the way of a healing journey.’
Pope Francis said in early June that he was pained by the Kamloops revelation and called for respect for the rights and cultures of native peoples. But he stopped short of the direct apology some Canadians had demanded.
‘It’s a harsh reality and it’s our truth, it’s our history,’ Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir told a media conference Friday.
‘And it’s something that we’ve always had to fight to prove. To me, it’s always been a horrible, horrible history.’