Many cities abandoned Canada Day events as the scandal over Indigenous children led them to confront their colonial history.
Protesters in the Canadian city of Winnipeg have toppled statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II amid growing anger over the discovery of the remains of hundreds of children in unmarked graves in ancient Indigenous schools.
Crowds chanted “no pride in the genocide” before tearing down statues of monarchs on Canada Day on Thursday, when celebrations are traditionally held across the country.
This year, however, many cities dismissed the events, as the scandal over Indigenous children caused Canadians to confront their colonial history. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the day would be “a time for reflection.”
The hashtag #CancelCanadaDay was a trend on social media and rallies were held in support of the indigenous community across the country.
Nearly 1,000 unmarked graves have been found in former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, run primarily by the Catholic Church and funded by the government.
For 165 years and in 1996 alone, schools forcibly separated indigenous children from their families, subjecting them to malnutrition and physical and sexual abuse in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called “cultural genocide.” in 2015.
In Winnipeg, a crowd applauded when the statue of Queen Victoria fell outside the Manitoba provincial legislature. Protesters, many of whom were wearing orange clothing, also kicked the fallen statue and danced around it. The pedestal and statue were painted with red paint handprints.
A nearby statue of Queen Elizabeth was also demolished. He is the current head of state of Canada, while Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901 when Canada was part of the British Empire.
Protests in support of Indigenous children also took place in Toronto, Canada’s financial center, while a #CancelCanadaDay march in the capital, Ottawa, drew thousands in support of the victims and survivors of the residential school system. .
Vigils and rallies were held in other parts of the country. Many participants wore orange clothes, which has become the symbol of the movement.
The Canadian flag at the Ottawa Peace Tower was waved at half mast to honor Indigenous children, as was the flag of the central tower of the Quebec National Assembly.
“This year, the tragic history of residential schools has overshadowed Canada Day celebrations,” said Francois Legault, Quebec’s prime minister.
In his Canada Day message, Trudeau said the discoveries of the remains of children in old schools “have rightly pressured us to reflect on the historical failures of our country.” He added that there are still injustices for Indigenous peoples and for many others in Canada.