Maternal figure or colonial oppressor? Review of Queen Victoria’s legacy after Winnipeg statue toppled – .

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Maternal figure or colonial oppressor? Review of Queen Victoria’s legacy after Winnipeg statue toppled – .


After a statue of Queen Victoria was brought down on Manitoba legislative grounds on Canada Day, two provincial professors said they wanted to set the record straight on life and heritage of the British monarch.
Victoria ruled the United Kingdom from 1837 until her death in 1901, a time marked by the unprecedented expansion of the British Empire, including continued expansion through what is now called Canada.

“Queen Victoria presided over some of the most brutal and expansive years in colonial history – when land was most stolen, when things like the Indian Act [were] established, ”said Niigaan Sinclair, professor of native studies at the University of Manitoba.
He says he can understand why, on July 1, a small group of people participating in the Every Child Matters March – held in honor of children forced to attend residential schools – shot down the statue of Queen Victoria at the Manitoba Legislative Assembly. Red handprints were painted on the statue and its base, and its head was severed and thrown into the Assiniboine River.

A smaller statue of Queen Elizabeth on the grounds of the Legislative Assembly was also shot down.

The response has likely been prompted by anger and frustration as more and more people face the grim truths of the residential school system and the country’s colonial legacy.

A statue of Queen Victoria in the Manitoba Legislature was toppled and her head removed on Canada Day. Sinclair says he understands this reaction given the lasting impacts of colonialism. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

The role of the British Empire in the dispossession of Indigenous peoples

“We have 150 years of brutal, draconian and terrible violence, much of which continues on the streets of Winnipeg in policies and laws, so it’s no surprise that people are turning to this,” Sinclair said.

“Let’s take some scope here. A retouched, altered, or vandalized statue, whatever you want to call it, is nowhere near the kind of reach that Indigenous people continue to experience every day. “

Adele Perry, director of the Center for Human Rights Research and professor in the U of M history department, says Queen Victoria and the British Empire played an “absolutely crucial role” in negotiating treaties, boarding schools and other systems that have dispossessed indigenous peoples.

Although she had never visited Canada, Victoria ruled during the signing of the five numbered treaties that encompass the majority of Manitoba, in which First Nations leaders made agreements with the Crown.

Treaties are constitutionally recognized agreements that allowed the Canadian government to actively pursue agriculture, settlement, transportation links and resource development in return for payment or other promises, according to the Commission on treaties of Manitoba.

Many First Nations viewed the treaties as sacred life pacts that shared the land and its riches with newcomers and created a common future.

Critics have argued that the common future has taken a back seat and that indigenous peoples have stood in the way.

A group of students and a nun pose in a classroom at Cross Lake Indian Residential School in Cross Lake, Manitoba in a file photo from February 1940. History teacher Adele Perry says Queen Victoria played a “crucial role” in establishing schools and other systems that dispossessed indigenous peoples. (Library and Archives Canada)

How Victoria came to redefine colonial rule

Unlike her grandfather, King George III, Victoria has been described as “kind and family” in an attempt to redefine colonial rule as a more beneficial relationship, Perry says.

“Her status as a woman and mother of a large family was often… used in such a way as to see her both as a powerful monarch but also as a particularly maternal monarch,” she said.

In effect, the Crown oversaw residential schools and mission schools that served to separate the children of Indigenous peoples from other parts of the British Empire, which served as examples for Canadian residential schools.

Victoria’s legacy lives on through “the terrible policies of violence that we still see happening today,” said Sinclair, referring to the government’s inaction in the face of issues such as poverty, violence and poverty. lack of drinking water among the First Nations.

Royal historian and University of Toronto instructor Carolyn Harris says Queen Victoria is one of the most visible symbols of Canada’s ties to Britain, noting that she is represented across the country in monuments, place names and even vacations.

People celebrate after the toppling of the statue of Queen Victoria. (Travis Golby/CBC)

“She has become synonymous with her time in many ways, and her image is associated with that period of the 19th century,” said Harris.

The toppling of the statue, she says, may not be so much about Queen Victoria as it is about the history of colonialism and empire in the Canadian landscape.

It’s time to consider a new monument

Until recently, the statue of Queen Victoria – erected in 1904, just three years after her death – held pride of place directly in front of the Manitoba Legislature, along with statues of four other European settlers, the historian explains. Manitoban Gordon Goldsborough.

Due to Victoria’s long time on the throne, he said there were “a lot of loving feelings for her”.

“So I guess that’s why they erected a monument to him.” “

Perry and Sinclair are among those who believe the affection has faded and it is time to consider a more inclusive monument in Manitoba history.

Sinclair sees the orange flags, a sign that says “We were kids once.” Take Them Home ”and the red handprints that remain on the statue’s platform as a monument to the children who died in residential schools.

“We have seen a peaceful indicator of change in our community. And I think that’s cause for celebration. “

The severed head of the statue of Queen Victoria was thrown into the Assiniboine River. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

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