PoliticsWhy Were Queen Victoria and Elizabeth II statues toppled...

Why Were Queen Victoria and Elizabeth II statues toppled in Canada?


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There were unsettling scenes in the city of Winnipeg, in Canada, as protestors forcibly pulled down two statues – one of Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria – in reaction to the recent discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves of indigenous children,

The grim discovery was made at Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, where at least 750 unmarked graves were found. Unfortunately, another 215 bodies were found buried in Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.

The history of these children goes as far back as 1876, as over 150,000 Indigenous children were forcibly taken from their families, in order to make them assimilate to Canadian culture and Christianity at a few select Catholic residential schools.

Sue Caribou, a survivor of the ideal, in a report to the Guardian, said that she was snatched from her home at the age of just seven years old. She reports being raped, being called ‘a dog’, physically abused, forced to eat rotten vegetables and forbidden to speak her native language of Cree.

Murray Sinclair, a former member of the Canadian Senate, said that “Canada clearly participated in a period of cultural genocide.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “[he] condemned any defacing of statues of the Queen.” A No.10 spokesperson said, “Our thoughts are with Canada’s indigenous community following these tragic discoveries and we follow these issues closely and continue to engage with the Government of Canada with indigenous matters.”

Canadian protestors tear down statues of the Queen. Video credit: ITV News

Rioting Is The Language Of The Unheard

Whilst it’s never acceptable to deface and destroy public property, one would have to possess a heart of stone to not understand and sympathise with the anger that people have.

Many people rightfully feel that it’s about time that Canada deals with its history, especially with such a grim and grisly result.

There is also a growing sentiment amongst sections of society that pulling statues down is a way of protesting against a system that many feel is unjust, and to a certain extent, this is true. Every government has skeletons in its closet.

The late Martin Luther King Jr. said ‘rioting is the language of the unheard, and it is the case that many of these voices were unheard, due to their untimely deaths.

It’s interesting to see protestors tagged statues of Britain’s royal matriarchs, relating to Britain’s role in colonialist attitudes that influenced Canadian culture to target and wipe out Indigenous culture. Similar scenes occurred in the UK, starting last year with the Black Lives Matter protests in London.

Catholic Church in Morinville, Canada suspiciously burned to the ground. Video credit: Edmonton Journal

There have also been reports of protestors targeting churches for arson.

It’s important to ask ourselves – what does pulling down statues actually do? What point does it prove? It’s understandable to demand answers and investigations from governments, but criminal damage and arson is not the way to do things.

This is a time where two things are required to resolve this issue – accountability and reconciliation. The latter requires healing, the willingness to forgive (not forget), and to learn from past sins so as to not do it again.

Respectfully, tearing down statues won’t change history. History is not always a nice thing to look back on. It’s not the utopia we want it to be. Trying to rewrite history by tearing down statues won’t solve anything.

Instead, it will simply cause division between the Indigenous population and Christians who have no part in the atrocities that took place. The last thing we need in this sensitive situation is conflict and tribalism. Cooperation is paramount.

Aaron Fenton-Hewitt
Aaron Fenton-Hewitt
Aaron Fenton-Hewitt is an aspiring journalist and political commentator. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Film from London Metropolitan University, and a Master's in Writing for Creative and Professional Practice from Middlesex University. He wishes to continue his academic career, with a PhD in Politics or related field. Aaron is also a freelance photographer, an avid foodie and an Arsenal supporter.

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