Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth is expected to address the media at 1 p.m. CST after the head of a statue of Queen Victoria in the Manitoba legislature was removed and thrown into the Assiniboine River.
The statue was further vandalized after a mob pulled it and a smaller statue of Queen Elizabeth at the end of the Every Child Matters March on July 1.
The Canada Day March was organized to protest the country’s treatment of Indigenous peoples under the colonial system – and in particular the system that required children to leave their families and attend residential schools, where abuses were currents and many died.
The statue of Victoria, first unveiled in 1904, was covered with a Canadian flag and the words “We were children” were inscribed in black marker, referring to children who died in residential schools.
Between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, the head of the Victoria statue was removed and thrown into the river.
Police said on Friday that a person had been arrested and charged with damage to the Legislature.
CBC News reporters saw police shock a man with a stun gun before he was arrested, while some bystanders threw objects at officers and yelled curses.
The crowd was largely peaceful before the arrest, but police had to push back a crowd to arrest the man.
Prime Minister Brian Pallister lashed out at those who brought down the statue, calling it a “major setback” for reconciliation in a statement released Friday.
“The acts of private vandalism of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly building on July 1 are unacceptable. They are a major setback for those working for true reconciliation and doing nothing to advance this important goal, ”he said.
“Those who commit acts of violence will be actively prosecuted in the courts. All Manitoba leaders must strongly condemn acts of violence and vandalism, and at the same time, we must unite to advance reconciliation in meaningful ways. “
The leader of Pimicikamak responds
The chief of the Cree Nation of Pimicikamak in northern Manitoba called for understanding after crowds spray painted and shot the statue down on Thursday.
Manitoba members Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) said they did not tolerate violence, but understood the reasons the statues were shot down, as well as the tensions that arose between those attending the rally and the police.
“I will not condemn people, because they are hurt mentally and emotionally, because the truth that has come out is hurtful and damaging,” Pimicikamak chief David Monias said in a MKO press release on Friday.
“The destruction of material things is nothing compared to the willful destruction of life and culture … Material things are replaceable, but lives are not.”
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak was one of the few organizations involved in various walks that started at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and ended in the Peguis First Nation Urban Reserve on Portage Avenue to Dominion Street. Participants in the march, called No Pride in Genocide, were not involved in the downing of statues in the Manitoba Legislature, according to the MKO statement.
The Treaty 1 Nation, which is made up of the seven First Nations signatories to Treaty 1 and also participated in the organization of No Pride in Genocide, distanced itself from events in the Legislative Assembly.
“We are committed to organizing peaceful demonstrations and actions, and we thank all our participants for their cooperation and participation in this important march to [Indian residential school] awareness, ”the organization said in a press release.
A deputy spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said his government condemns the vandalism of the Queen’s statues.
“Our hearts are with the Indigenous community in Canada following these tragic discoveries, and we are following these issues closely and continue to engage with the Government of Canada on Indigenous issues,” he said.
Buckingham Palace said it would not comment.
CBC News asked the provincial government for comment and was told a statement was forthcoming.