2 statues of queens toppled at Manitoba Legislature

Dozens of people, many wearing orange shirts in memory of Indigenous children sent to residential schools, surrounded a statue of Queen Victoria as ropes were wrapped around it and it was pulled off its base.

Queen Victoria reigned during the time Canada enacted its residential school policy

People celebrate after a statue of Queen Victoria was toppled on Thursday at the Manitoba Legislature. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Two statues of queens on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature were pulled down Thursday during a rally aimed at replacing Canada Day celebrations with actions in memory of hundreds of Indigenous children buried in unmarked graves at residential schools across the country.

Dozens of people, many wearing orange shirts in memory of Indigenous children sent to residential schools, surrounded the Queen Victoria statue. Some of them wrapped it in ropes and pulled it off its base.

The grounds were the destination of an Every Child Matters walk in Winnipeg on Canada Day afternoon to protest the fallout of Canada's residential schools system. 

The statue was covered in red paint handprints. A sign saying "We were children once. Bring them home" was left leaning on the statue's pedestal after it was toppled. 

Queen Victoria reigned from June 1837 until her death in 1901. As such, she was the monarch as Canada entered Confederation, negotiated treaties with Indigenous Peoples and as the federal government enacted its residential schools policy. 

A man is arrested at the Manitoba Legislature on Thursday, not long after a monument to Queen Victoria was toppled by a crowd. The circumstances of the arrest are unclear. (Travis Golby/CBC )

The statue, first unveiled in 1904, was left covered with a Canadian flag which had been written over with black marker with the words "We were children."

A smaller statue of Queen Elizabeth II was also toppled on the east side of the legislative grounds and was left covered in yellow rope. 

The toppling of the statues comes on a Canada Day when thousands took to Winnipeg streets to honour victims and survivors of residential schools. 

Belinda Vandenbroeck, a residential school survivor who spoke to those gathered at the legislature, told CBC News she had nothing to do with pulling the Queen Victoria statue down, but felt no remorse that it happened. 

Queen Victoria statue toppled by protestors at Manitoba Legislature

1 year ago
Duration 1:31
Two prominent statues were forcibly taken down in Manitoba yesterday, while thousands of people were out protesting residential schools. The CBC's Marina von Stackelberg has further details.

"This queen is the one that gave our land away just like that to her merry gentlemen — her fur traders," she said.

"So I really have no place for her in my heart. I never did. She means nothing to me except that her policies and her colonialism is what is dictating us right to this minute as you and I speak."

At one point after the Queen Victoria statue was pulled down, police shocked a man with a stun gun and arrested him while others lobbed objects their way and yelled profanities.

The circumstances of the arrest remain unclear. The crowd on the grounds was largely peaceful prior to the man's arrest, in which police pushed a throng back to take him into custody. 

A Winnipeg police spokesperson declined immediate comment, saying there may be information forthcoming on Friday. 

A statue of Queen Elizabeth II, located on the east side of the legislative grounds, was also toppled. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC )

CBC has requested comment from the province. 

The Queen Victoria monument was defaced in June 2020 in the wake of anti-racism protests. 

The statue was doused with white paint with red over its mouth. The justice minister at the time, legislative member Cliff Cullen, said he found the vandalism "very disturbing." 

WATCH | Statue of Queen Victoria toppled at Manitoba Legislature: 

Statue of Queen Victoria toppled at Manitoba Legislature

1 year ago
Duration 1:27
Members of a crowd pulled the statue down on Thursday afternoon. (Courtesy Belinda Vandenbroeck)