Canadian Protesters Toppled Statues of Queens Victoria and Elizabeth II to Protest the Commonwealth’s Treatment of Indigenous Peoples

As Canadians celebrated yesterday’s anniversary of the nation’s confederation, protesters in orange shirts marched to the Manitoba legislature in Winnipeg and toppled statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. The statues are seen by some as symbols of colonizing forces, and chants of “bring her down” spread throughout the group,

The protesters’ orange shirts commemorated the Indigenous children who were sent to notoriously vicious residential schools where abuse and even death were common. At least 150,000 children were forcibly taken from their families over the course of a century as part of an attempt by the government to assimilate Indigenous children into Canadian society. Ongoing revelations of their unmarked graves have been roiling the nation.

Protesters covered the base of both statues with red handprints, and a red paint-splattered sheet covered Victoria’s head, as people tied ropes around her neck in order to bring down the monument. One man was arrested, though it is unclear what connection he had with the protesters. The activist group Idle No More led calls on social media for #CancelCanadaDay, and spread other hashtags including #NoPrideInGenocide, #BringOurChildrenHome, and #SearchEverySchool. 

In Victoria, which is Lək̓ʷəŋən Territory, a statue of Captain James Cook was dismantled and thrown into Victoria’s Inner Harbour and more red handprints were painted on the empty pedestal. Cheers erupted as the bronze figure fell onto the street, and red wooden dresses were placed around the statue to represent murdered and missing Indigenous women.

“The city of Victoria should remove all monuments that celebrate settler colonialism,” one Instagram user wrote in a caption to the video, “NO PRIDE IN GENOCIDE.” 

Last month, protesters in Toronto felled a statue of Egerton Ryerson, a figure who is considered the architect of the residential school system. 


The protests come on the heels of the Lower Kootenay Band’s announcement that the remains of another 182 children had been found in unmarked graves. 

That comes after news in May that the remains of more than 200 children were found on the grounds of a former residential school in unmarked graves. The discovery at Kamloops Indian residential school, which was the largest school of its kind in Canada, prompted outrage among citizens, especially those within the Indigenous community. At the time, Prime Minister Justin Troudeau called it a “tragedy” that “kids were taken from their families, returned damaged, or not returned at all.” 

In June, Vancouver-based artist Tamara Bell installed 215 pairs of shoes on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery to represent the children discovered in May, and community members placed flowers, messages, and stuffed animals alongside the grim display.

In a statement on Canada Day, Trudeau said that “the horrific findings of the remains of hundreds of children at the sites of former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan have rightly pressed us to reflect on our country’s historic failures, and the injustices that still exist for Indigenous peoples and many others in Canada.” He added: “We as Canadians must be honest with ourselves about our past.”

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The Victoria and Albert Museum Will Cut a Fifth of Its Curatorial Staff as Part of a Sweeping Round of Layoffs

London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is making drastic cuts to its workforce as cultural institutions around the globe struggle amid extended and repeated closures.

Unions learned that the V&A’s “recovery strategy” would involve lay offs and the restructuring of curatorial departments on Thursday, according to the Guardian. The Art Newspaper confirmed news of the layoffs this afternoon.

To combat a “mounting deficit,” director Tristram Hunt told TAN, the museum is cutting 140 of its 980 jobs, including 30 curatorial posts and 110 from a number of departments including visitor experience and retail. The goal is to trim at least £10 million ($14 million) from the budget by 2023.

The pandemic has left the V&A reeling as attendance plummeted in 2020 to just 20 percent of what it was in 2019. Visitor numbers will probably be at 25 percent of pre-pandemic levels in 2021, and may not return to normal until 2024.

The layoffs follow a round of voluntary redundancies first announced in September, when the museum unveiled the first phase of its recovery plan. The curatorial cuts will mean restructuring entire departments, which are currently organized by materials such as woodwork and metalwork.

The European and North and South American collections will now become one department with three subdivisions. The sub-Saharan Africa and African diaspora collections will join with the museum’s Asian collection in a new department, and the V&A’s Archives and National Art Library will become part of the V&A Research Institute.

“The proposed changes will simplify department structures, retaining curatorial expertise and specialisms across all key material types,” a spokesperson told Midnight Publishing Group News in an email. “Our focus remains on consulting openly and meaningfully on the proposals with our staff and trade union colleagues, and to support our staff community through this difficult process.”

“The curators will be more stretched, it’s true, but I hope the chronological approach will lead to more synergies between them,” Hunt told TAN, noting that the museum’s curatorial staff will continue to outnumber that of the Tate and the British Museum and many European institutions.

But insiders are worried about the long-term effects of such a move.

“It’s hollowing out the expertise of the museum,” one person told the Guardian. “Very experienced conservators are leaving or have left. Some conservators and curators have already left on voluntary terms. The next wave is forced redundancies.”

The Tate moved to eliminate some 400 positions last year, prompting an extended strike, while the London Royal Academy shed 150 jobs. Layoffs have been more prevalent in the US, with the most recent round coming earlier this week with 15 cuts at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

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