Canada: Discovery of Mass Graves of Indigenous Children Sparks Combative Protests, Toppling of Colonial Monuments

Photo: Statue of Egerton Ryerson, architect of the genocidal residential school system for indigenous children in Canada, toppled in Toronto. (Credit CityNews)

By Serran Soledad

For weeks, large combative protests have broken out in Canada against the oppression of indigenous people in response to the discoveries of several mass graves of indigenous children over the past couple months at residential schools. These protests have targeted monuments of colonialism as well as government institutions.

Founded as institutions for the assimilation of indigenous children, residential schools were notorious for cases of physical and sexual abuse, as well as for separating children from their families and native languages. The recent discovery of mass graves on their grounds further demonstrates the genocidal intent of these colonial projects.

On July 1, hundreds of protesters surrounded and pulled down a statue of Queen Victoria, outside the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg. The statue’s head had been wrapped with various flags, and red paint covered its base. The sound of drums and cheering rang out from the crowd as the statue hit the ground.

Nearby, a smaller statue of Queen Elizabeth was also covered with graffiti and brought down by protesters. In Victoria British Columbia, protesters toppled a statue of Captain James Cook, a British colonial explorer. As his head and various body parts broke on impact, protesters threw the remains into Victoria’s Inner Harbor.

On June 30, a statue of Egerton Ryerson one of the architects of Canada’s residential schools, was covered in red paint and graffiti throughout the week before being pulled down by student protesters at Ryerson University in Toronto. The statue was then beheaded and has since been stuck on a metal pole somewhere along the territory of the Six Nations of the Grand River.

In May, indigenous leaders in Ottawa discovered a mass grave holding the remains of 215 indigenous children. The site was located on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, a Catholic-run institution where 150,000 indigenous children were placed by the Canadian Government from 1863 to 1998.

Weeks after the discovery, 751 unmarked graves were also found at another residential school, this time in Saskatchewan, British Columbia. On June 30, another 182 bodies were found on the grounds of a former Residential School in Cranbrook B.C.

The third finding surfaced on the eve of Canada Day, a holiday commemorating the founding of the country, prompting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to publicly address the discoveries as a reminder of Canada’s violent history, calling for a muted celebration of the day. As the coming protests would show, the people were not placated by the prime minister’s words.

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