It’s never really about the statues.
On Canada Day this year, far-left activists in Winnipeg toppled statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II outside the provincial legislature.
Ironically, over in the UK much ado was made about the coming-together of warring brothers William and Harry to unveil a statue of their mother, Princess Diana, on what would have been her 60th birthday. The only real controversy that surrounded this unveiling involved whether or not the press would invent more fights between the brothers to sell headlines.
So as one statue went up, two came down. Ten Downing Street condemned the destruction of statues in Winnipeg, but Indigenous voices and academics have been looking for an apology from the Queen for residential schools for years. She alone is not responsible for the atrocities of these assimilate-or-die schools, but this is her Commonwealth, and what happens within it is a responsibility she took on voluntarily in 1952.
Precursor laws to the Indian Act of 1876 include the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which was all but lit up in smoke with the onset of the American Revolution. It set the stage for 250-plus years of land claims, treaty disputes, and policies of assimilation designed to “take the Indian out of the child” with zero tolerance for “Indian-ness,” in the immortal words of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, born in Scotland.
Every Roman Catholic bishop who claims unfair persecution for residential schools is rightly condemned. You wear the cloak, you take the oath, you accept the mission and the blame. Churches are being burnt to the ground across Canada, statues toppled, and still those protected by the powerful institutions that made them are keeping their heads down waiting for public anger to dissipate.
The average Canadian is not toppling statues. The average Canadian is still grappling with a reality of residential schools they were, purposefully, never taught in history class. The average Canadian knows that putting so much focus on the status of a statue is a way to promote willful avoidance of the real issue – true reconciliation, from every level of Canadian society, religious societies, and the powerful figureheads leading the Commonwealth.