Protesters tore down the statues of the Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II, located in the Canadian city of Winnipeg, as anger grows in the country over the discovery of the remains of hundreds of unidentified children in graves in ancient indigenous schools.
A crowd chanted “without pride of genocide” before toppling the statues of the monarchs. The action took place on Thursday during the Canada’s day, when traditionally celebrations are held throughout the country.
However, many cities have ruled out the events this year because of the scandal that has emerged in the wake of the discovery of tombs of indigenous children, something that made Canadians confront their colonial history. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the day would be “a time of reflection.”
Have been found nearly 1,000 graves unidentified in former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, which were primarily run by the Catholic Church and funded by the government.
For 165 years, and until 1996, the schools forcibly separated indigenous children from their families, subjecting them to malnutrition and physical and sexual abuse, a fact that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called “Cultural genocide” in 2015.
In Winnipeg, a crowd cheered as the statue of Queen Victoria fell outside the Manitoba provincial legislature. The protesters, many of whom were wearing orange clothing, also kicked the toppled statue and they danced around her. The pedestal and statue were painted with red paint hand marks.
A nearby statue of Queen Elizabeth was also toppled. She is the current head of state of Canada, while Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901 when Canada was part of the British Empire.
Protests in support of indigenous children also took place this Thursday in Toronto, Canada’s financial district, while a march #CancelCanadaDay in the nation’s capital, Ottawa, it attracted thousands of people to support the victims and survivors of the boarding school system.
Vigils and rallies were held in other parts of the country. Many participants they wore orange clothes, which has become the symbol of the movement.
In his Canada Day message, Trudeau said the discoveries of children’s remains in old schools “have rightly pressed us to reflect on the historic failures of our country.” Injustices still exist for indigenous peoples and for many others in Canada, he said.