Videos online show large crowds demolishing statues in Winnipeg on Canada Day Thursday, with many chanting, “No pride in genocide.”
“I helped bring the bitch down,” said one caption of an online video the overthrow of the reigning 95-year-old British monarch, Elizabeth II, who is Canada’s current head of state.
Other clips showed large crowds, mostly dressed in orange, screaming for joy as they destroyed a statue of Queen Victoria, who ruled from 1837 to 1901 when Canada was part of the British Empire.
Others kicked and danced around the overturned statue, which was smeared with hand marks in red paint. Elsewhere, Catholic churches have also been vandalized and slathered with similar red paint in the shape of a hand.
The protests followed the discovery of nearly 1,000 anonymous graves in former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, which were primarily run by the Catholic Church and funded by the government.
For 165 years and as recently as 1996, schools forcibly separated Indigenous children from their families, subjecting them to malnutrition and physical and sexual abuse in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called in 2015 ” cultural genocide ”.
The statues were attacked as protesters blamed the country’s colonial past.
In his Canada Day message, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the findings “rightly prompted us to reflect on our country’s historic failures.”
He called it a “moment of reflection” as many cities ditched traditional Canada Day celebrations, while a #CancelCanadaDay event saw thousands marching through the capital, Ottawa.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government condemns any degradation of the Queen’s statues.
“Our hearts are with the Indigenous community of 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.