Fate of toppled statues unclear, federal Conservatives want them restored
A letter from a group of Conservative MPs condemns 'criminal acts contrary to reconciliation'
A letter from a group of Conservative members of Parliament calls on Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister to restore two statues of British queens toppled during a Canada Day protest.
The fate of the statues of Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria on the grounds of the Manitoba legislature remains unclear four days after they were brought down with ropes by demonstrators who were protesting the deaths of Indigenous children at residential schools.
"Vandalism at the legislature and the burning of places of worship in provinces across Canada are criminal acts contrary to reconciliation," reads the letter signed by the eight Conservative members of Parliament in Manitoba, as well as by Eric Melillo, MP for Kenora in northwestern Ontario.
"We cannot allow a small number of individuals to subvert our democracy or erode our democratic institutions. Therefore, we respectfully request that the statues ... be repaired and restored to the legislative grounds as soon as possible."
In an interview with CBC News, Kildonan-St. Paul MP Raquel Dancho said that on Canada Day, said the toppling of the statues threatened to "derail" an otherwise positive process the country has been going through following the discoveries of burial sites at former residential schools.
"To see a couple of dozen people act like violent vigilantes and engage in that sort of illegal destruction, I thought that was really unfortunate to an otherwise very good path forward that we've been seeing in Canada for truth reconciliation," she said.
'Let's talk about reconciliation in a meaningful way'
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas called the letter "ignorant" and not reflective of what reconciliation means.
"If they really, truly want to speak to representatives of First Nations, to see what their thoughts are, then by all means, the phone lines are open, let's talk about reconciliation in a meaningful way," he said.
"But if it's this prescribed, Eurocentric concept that they want to perpetuate, then by all means they should do that, but they also shouldn't be surprised when people react in an unconstructive way."
After it was toppled, the head on the Queen Victoria statue was removed and dumped in a river before being recovered.
The Manitoba government says the statues have been taken away and are being assessed for damage.
Winnipeg police say they are investigating, but no charges have been laid.
Justice Minister Cameron Friesen wouldn't comment on whether the statues would be restored, but the investigation into the incident must continue.
"We are a nation of laws. We are a province of laws. And we must hold accountable those who break laws," he said.
WATCH | Prime Minister reacts to question about the vandalized statues at Manitoba Legislature:
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, responding to a question during a news conference, reiterated his position that destruction of property is not the way forward.
"I fully understand the anger and the grief that so many people are feeling, particularly with these discoveries of gravesites across the country, from residential schools," he said.
"We need to listen to that anger, to that grief, and make reflections around how we commemorate and honour historical figures, and whether we do. But at the same time, the hard work of reconciliation comes from rolling up our sleeves and working together on a better path forward."
University of Manitoba professor Nigaan Sinclair, speaking on CBC Manitoba's morning radio show Information Radio, said he had expected something like the toppling of the statues to happen for some time.
"It's with little surprise that people would turn to this, because they've been asking peacefully and kindly through marches, through peaceful requests, through participating in government, for change. But the boil water advisories, the violence, the poverty still continues. And much of the legacy that began in residential schools."
With files from Marina von Stackelberg