Manitoba

Manitoba First Nations leaders hope to work with province after Queen statues toppled

Two prominent Indigenous leaders say they in no way condone the Canada Day toppling of two statues at the Manitoba Legislature but believe their removal might lay a path to positive change.

"It's a triggering time," AMC grand chief says

Head of Queen Victoria statue recovered in river

1 year ago
Duration 3:46
The head of the Queen Victoria statue from outside the Manitoba Legislature has been recovered. Someone removed it overnight and threw it into the river. The statue itself was toppled earlier Thursday following two peaceful walks to honour children who died in residential schools.
Two prominent Indigenous leaders say they in no way condone the Canada Day toppling of two statues at the Manitoba Legislature but believe their removal might lay a path to positive change.


Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and Chief Glenn Hudson of Peguis First Nation told CBC separately Friday that demonstrators pulling down of monarchist monuments was likely prompted by anger and frustration as more people confront the grim truths of Canada's residential school system.

"These institutions of genocide were horrible," Dumas said, adding that it's "a triggering time." 

"Statues can be rebuilt. Monuments can be rebuilt. But the lives lost will never be recovered."

Thousands gathered for a "No Pride in Genocide" walk on Thursday, of which Dumas, Hudson and others were co-organizers. 
The statue of Queen Victoria lies on the ground with its head removed in front of the Manitoba Legislature on Canada Day. The head was thrown in the Assiniboine River. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

It was held to honour the children who never came home after being taken to residential schools, and to call on the federal government to take action. 

In May, Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in B.C. reported unmarked burials near the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Preliminary findings suggest the site contains the remains of about 215 children.  

And last week, Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan announced preliminary findings of an estimated 751 unmarked graves in the community, about 140 kilometres east of Regina. The unmarked graves are at a cemetery near the former Marieval Indian Residential School. 

For many younger Indigenous people, they're only now starting to learn how their families were impacted by the legacy of the schools, Dumas said. 
AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said he was disappointed and a little shocked by the actions of those who toppled statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II at the Manitoba Legislature on Canada Day.

His mother and grandparents went to residential schools, he said, but "a curtain of silence" over what happened meant he didn't have an appreciation of it until he was an adult. 

The time has come to consider erecting monuments which better reflect today's Canada, Dumas said. Putting colonial symbols on display "has done a disservice to everybody," he said. 

"We need to be more reflective of who we are today as a country, more reflective of who we are today as a province and have monuments that are more reflective of what actually happened in this province to make it what it is today," he said. 

Like Dumas, Hudson said people are angry at the impacts of residential schools and as well, unfulfilled promises by governments when it comes to honouring treaty obligations. 

As far as replacing the statues — the province should work with Indigenous people on what comes next, he said. 

Hudson broached the possibility of erecting a statue of Chief Peguis, which he believes would be "a sign that would show perhaps there's a better future for us all." 
Chief Glenn Hudson of Peguis First Nation says the province should consult with First Nations about replacement statues at the legislature. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Peguis, a Saulteaux chief, was a defender of First Nations rights, and is known for his role in bringing four other chiefs together to sign the Selkirk Treaty of 1817, which ceded land along the Red River to settlers.

All areas of society, including people who aren't Indigenous, want to see reconciliation between government and Indigenous Peoples, said Hudson. 

"There's not a statue of a First Nations leader on the grounds of the legislature at this time," Hudson said. 

now