A STATUE of Queen Victoria has been torn down by protesters following the discovery of over 1,000 children's bodies in unmarked graves on the sites of three former residential schools.
Statues of both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II were toppled by furious protesters on Canada Day, 1 July, which marks the British colonisation of what is now Canada in 1867.
Usually a celebratory affair, this year's Canada Day has been marred by the discovery, in three locations, of over 1,000 unmarked graves on sites which were once residential schools run by Catholic and Christian Churches.
Demonstrators toppled statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth in Winnipeg this afternoon during rallies honouring the children discovered in unmarked graves on the sites of former residential schools over the past month. pic.twitter.com/Zx0aqPGcOW
— APTN News (@APTNNews) July 2, 2021
These schools forced an estimated 150,000 Canadian First Nation children to convert to Christian faiths, took them from their parents and forbade them from speaking their native language, facing brutal beatings if they did so.
Physical and sexual abuse were rampant in the institutions, which operated until the 1970s and forced Indigenous children to assimilate into modern Canadian culture, and over the past two months multiple churches have been burned to the ground after hundreds of unmarked graves were found on the sites of three former schools.
Now a statue of Britain's Queen Victoria, who confederated the colonies in 1867 to form the Dominion of Canada, and who reigned when the residential schools were set up, has been toppled over by protesters in Winnipeg.
The statue had already been vandalised, daubed with red paint in the shape of handprints to represent the children's lives lost to the forced assimilation of Indigenous people.
BREAKING: Statue of Queen Victoria covered in red paint, toppled at Manitoba Legislative Building. pic.twitter.com/RRdMLIQq8a
— Renée Rodgers (@ReneeRodgersCTV) July 1, 2021
A statue of the current Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, was also torn down nearby as crowds cheered, BBC News reports.
Thousands have taken to the streets in Winnipeg to show solidarity with Indigenous First Nations while other towns and cities cancelled Canada Day celebrations in the wake of the horrific discoveries of over 1,000 unmarked graves.
Local media reports that one man has been arrested, but despite the toppling of the statues the protests have been mostly peaceful.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is himself a Catholic, last week apologised for the government policy which took children from their parents and forced them into schools where physical and sexual abuse were rampant.
He also called for the "destruction of places of worship" to stop, calling it "not acceptable".
"We must work together to right past wrongs," he said, adding "Everyone has a role to play.”