Statues of Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth toppled in Canada
In response to recent discoveries of unmarked graves at three former residential schools protests took place nationwide on Canada day. People across Canada have shown solidarity and all First Nations communities have organized multiple vigils, memorials, and protests honouring the child victims of the church run residential schools. Governments have promised to help Indigenous groups search for more victims. Some experts say, the number of bodies remaining to be found could be in the thousands.
How are Canadian's reacting?
Canadian flags continue fly at half-mast nationwide in recognition of the discovery of children's remains at residential schools ran by the Catholic Church in Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Canada Day events have were cancelled or changed across multiple cities for a second straight year due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. This year many Canadians chose to use Canada Day as a day of national self-reflection and recognition of Indigenous genocide. In a statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged that for some July 1, was "not yet a day of celebration." "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 may others in Canada," "We as Canadians must be honest with ourselves about our past."
In Winnipeg, during Canada Day Protests a crowd toppled down statues of former and current UK Monarchs. Crowds cheered as Queen Victoria's statue was taken down outside the Manitoba provincial legislature. Protesters kicked the toppled statue and danced around it. The pedestal and statue were covered in red paint with hand marks representing the victims of residential schools.
Queen Victoria was the monarch of the UK, Canada and other territories from 1837 until her death in 1901, Queen Victoria was on the throne during the founding of the Canadian confederation. She also signed the British North America Act (now called the Constitution Act, 1867 which also excluded women from holding significant positions of power.
The British Crown negotiated treaties with indigenous First Nations in Canada and the government enacted its residential schools policy during her reign. A nearby statue of Queen Elizabeth was also pulled down. She is Canada's current head of state and reigned for much of the time the residential schools were operational in Canada.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the toppling of the Queen's statues, however, many Canadians disregard his comments. In 2009, Mclean's reported that Canadians are now paying more per capita to support the Queen than the British are.
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. Overall protests across Canada were very peaceful and memorials and vigils were the highlights of Canada day.
What did Canadian's discover?
Recently in Saskatchewan at least 751 unmarked graves were found on the site of Marieval Indian Residential School, which was run by the Catholic Church. Less than a month beforehand the remains of as many as 215 children were also found in unmarked graves, at the site of a former Catholic Church run residential school in Kamloops, B.C. A Canadian Indigenous group, The Lower Kootenay Band, said it has found at least 182 human remains in unmarked graves near Cranbrook, British Columbia. The grave site is close to the former St. Eugene’s Mission School, which was operated by the Roman Catholic Church from 1912 until the early 1970s. The Kamloops discovery led to a national self-reflection of Canada’s residential schools’ legacy and renewed calls to search the grounds of all former residential schools across North America.
What were residential schools?
In Canada, the Indian residential school system was a network of at least 130 boarding schools set up to educate and subjugate Indigenous peoples. The residential school network was funded by the Canadian government's Department of Indian Affairs and administered by various churches. The Catholic Church has historically been heinous towards vulnerable people worldwide, has carried out gynocides and involved itself in multiple genocides, and has centuries of instances of abuse against women and children.
Two primary objectives of the residential school system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their home and families to erase their traditions and cultures and to ultimately assimilate them. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimates more than 150,000 children attended residential schools in Canada from the 1830s to 1996. Children at residential schools died at a far higher rate than those in the general population. In nearly a third of the deaths, the name of the child wasn’t recorded; nearly half did not list a cause of death. When the commission concluded in 2015, it had determined that at least 3,200 children died in residential schools. Since 2015, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has added 980 names to its memorial register which steadily keeps growing.
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of a residential school experience. Support is available at 1-866-925-4419.
- Canada's Residential School Horror
- Hundreds Of Bodies Found At Catholic Church Operated Residential School