Statues of queens toppled at Manitoba legislature will be restored, premier says

The two statues of British queens that were toppled at Manitoba's legislature grounds on Canada Day will be fixed and placed back up though the locations may change, the premier said Wednesday. 

Pallister chastises protestors, calling actions 'failures of character on display'

"The statues will go back up": Manitoba premier on toppled statues at legislature

4 months ago
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said Wednesday the two statues of queens that were toppled on Canada Day will be fixed and placed back up, though the locations may change. 1:58

The two statues of British queens that were toppled at Manitoba's legislature grounds on Canada Day will be fixed and placed back up though the locations may change, the premier said Wednesday.  

"I want to be very clear: the statues will go back up," Brian Pallister said during a news conference. 

In his first news conference since the incident, Pallister also admonished those who took part in the tearing down of the statues, calling those actions "failures of character on display." 

While the premier said Manitoba is committed to reconciliation, he also said, "The people who came here to this country before it was a country, and since, didn't come here to destroy anything — they came here to build."

"There are good and bad aspects to Canada's heritage, as there are to any country's heritage.… We've had good times and we've had bad moments. And Canada Day was one of those bad moments, Pallister said.

"We need to respect our heritage just as we need to respect one another," he said. "Not to find fault. Not to tear down, not to highlight every failure, but rather to realize that we're a complex country as we are made up of complex people." 

The statue of Queen Victoria lies on the ground with its head removed in front of the Manitoba Legislature. The head was thrown in the Assiniboine River but later recovered. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

The prominent Queen Victoria statue and a smaller statue of Queen Elizabeth II were pulled down last Thursday, July 1, at the end of the Every Child Matters walk, which was held to remember Indigenous children who died at residential schools.

On Friday, it was discovered that the Queen Victoria statue had been further vandalized, with its head removed and thrown in the Assiniboine River.

Comments out of touch: NDP, historian 

At a time when many Canadians are grieving over the discovery of hundreds of Indigenous children buried in unmarked graves at residential schools across the country, Pallister's comments Wednesday were offensive and divisive, said Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew. 

"Right now, we are in time when our country is grappling with the disclosure of just how many children died during the attempted destruction of Indigenous cultures and civilizations, so for the premier to say that, it shows that not only is he unaware of Manitoba's actual history, but he's also out of touch with our current reality," Kinew said. 

"How can a leader make a comment right now that doesn't really focus on those children? That should really be the focus of these conversations going forward."

He added that he thinks the province should ask Manitobans if they want the statues restored, or want something else in their place. 

WATCH | Pallister on toppled states at legislature:

Manitoba Premier on toppled statues at legislature

4 months ago
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister addressed the toppling of two statues of British queens at Manitoba's legislature on Canada Day. 2:47

Sean Carleton, an assistant professor in the department of history and Indigenous studies at the University of Manitoba, said the premier's comments show a profound misinterpretation of Canada's history "that perpetuates this myth that Canada was created peacefully rather than through conflict with Indigenous people."

"Just as statues don't tell the whole history, I think you need to be careful in this moment that you're not perpetuating mythmaking of Canada," he said. 

He said he also thinks the focus on the statues, rather than reckoning with Canada's colonial past, is misguided. 

"We need to use this as an opportunity to really listen and learn from each other and understand the true weight of the past and how it influences what's going on in Manitoba today." 

Plans for statues 

Pallister said the locations of the statues may change based on consultation with stakeholders but said he thinks the Queen Elizabeth statue should return to the east side of the grounds, in front of the residence of Manitoba's lieutenant-governor.

However, he said anyone involved in the tearing down of the statues will not have a voice in those discussions. 

"Nobody who was involved in the destruction of those statues or the damage to the grounds is going to have any place at the table around how we arrive at solutions."

He added that discussions were already underway about monuments on the legislature grounds prior to the Canada Day toppling of the statues. 

An evaluation of the damage done to the statues of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria is currently underway, though it's clear the Queen Victoria statue sustained more damage, Pallister said. 

'I want to be very clear: the statues will go back up,' Premier Brian Pallister

4 months ago
Premier Brian Pallister says Manitoba is committed to reconciliation. Today, the premier asked people not to topple any more statues on the legislature grounds. But his appeal also had a rough landing. 2:15

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With files from Bartley Kives