A statue of Queen Victoria that was toppled and beheaded by protesters last year outside the Manitoba legislature is beyond repair and will not be restored.
“It’s gone through a lengthy assessment process and is not repairable,” Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said in an interview.
Trying to replicate it is also out of the question, Goertzen said, because it would cost at least $500,000.
“I know it will be disappointing to many people — it won’t be recast — but that’s the decision.”
The statue, a prominent monument on the front lawn of the legislature, was tied with ropes and hauled to the ground on Canada Day last year during a demonstration over the deaths of Indigenous children at residential schools. It was covered with red paint. The head of the large statue was removed and found the next day in the nearby Assiniboine River.
While the statue was toppled in an area covered by many security cameras, no one was charged with causing the damage.
A smaller statue of the Queen, on a side lawn next to the lieutenant-governor’s house, was also toppled but suffered less damage. That one of Queen Elizabeth II is being repaired and will be put back in place, Goertzen said.
Discussions with Indigenous groups are ongoing about what might replace the Queen Victoria statue, he added.
There is no word yet on what is to become of the broken Queen Victoria statue. In online discussion forums, some people have suggested the statue be installed in a museum as-is to commemorate last year’s protest.
Kayaker Tom Armstrong fishes the head of a statue of Queen Victoria from the Assiniboine River in Winnipeg, Friday, July 2, 2021. Her statue and a statue of Queen Elizabeth II were toppled and vandalized on Canada Day during demonstrations concerning Indigenous children who died at residential schools. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kelly Geraldine Malone
The decision to not restore or replicate the statue comes amid a public debate over how to mark Canada Day this year, at a time when the country is still coming to grips with the legacy of residential schools. Winnipeg is home to the highest concentration of Indigenous people among major cities in Canada.
Organizers of the city’s big annual Canada Day celebrations at the Forks — the downtown junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers — have renamed the event this year “A New Day,” cancelled fireworks and promised events that will be reflective as well as celebratory.
That has led to accusations that organizers have cancelled Canada Day, which they deny. Jenny Motkaluk, a candidate for the city’s mayoral election in October who finished second in the last race in 2018, blasted the decision and said she would go elsewhere because she loves the country unconditionally.
Other mayoral candidates are supporting the renamed event and have said acknowledging the country’s history, including its flaws, is important.
Wab Kinew, Manitoba’s Opposition NDP leader, said there are ways to mark the holiday while acknowledging the wrongs.
“I think it could mean things like marking Canada Day, attending a Canada Day celebration, but wearing an orange shirt in honour of the (residential school) survivors,” Kinew said.
“I am a patriot, but I’m a patriot who is also the son of a residential school survivor, and my dad shared a bunk with a child who never came home from that residential school.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 22, 2022.
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