A statue of Egerton Ryerson at Ryerson University, which was pulled down earlier Sunday evening by demonstrators, will not be “restored or replaced,” the university said Sunday.
A statement from the university’s president Mohamed Lachemi stated that the statue was pulled down by a truck about an hour after demonstrations honouring residential school victims ended at 6 p.m.
“The question of the statue was only one of many being considered by the Standing Strong (Mash Koh Wee Kah Pooh Win) Task Force, whose mandate includes consideration of the university’s name, responding to the legacy of Egerton Ryerson, and other elements of commemoration on campus,” read Lachemi’s statement.
“Their work is now more important than ever. I ask our community to respect their work and to engage with them as we should engage with all matters at our university — through dialogue, debate and the exchange of ideas.”
The university also confirmed that the statue would not be restored or replaced, and that it was “relieved that no one was injured in the process” of its removal.
The statue, which has long been a flash point of controversy over the educator’s influential role in designing Canada’s residential school system, was first shown to be removed Sunday evening after several images were posted to social media.
“A couple decades too late, but the Egerton Ryerson statue has been desecrated and toppled over,” wrote Al MacMillan, who posted a video on Twitter of the statue being pulled down with a rope.
The statue and the university’s name have been the subject of criticism for several years amid calls for Canada to reconcile its history of colonialism and treatment of Indigenous people.
A statement also posted online by the Standing Strong (Mash Koh Wee Kah Pooh Win) Task Force, which was formed to examine the university’s reconciliation with the history of Egerton Ryerson, called for a “commitment to the community for a transparent process” despite the urgency from some for “immediate change.”
“With the statue removed, there may be regrets that the many students, faculty, staff and community members who have worked tirelessly towards its removal were not offered the opportunity to witness the moment it came down. We recognize that the absence of the statue does not reconcile Egerton Ryerson’s legacy and so we will continue our work,” read the statement, which added that it would give its final recommendations on next steps before the fall semester.
Spray-painted words and paint have since been splashed across the statue over the last week following the discovery of the bodies of 215 children in a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
Several students, professors and university groups have already swapped their references to the university from Ryerson to “X University.” Most recently, the university’s journalism school announced it would rename two of its publications.
Toronto Police Const. Alex Li told the Canadian Press that officers were investigating the statue’s collapse.
Last week, Ontario provincial legislature opted to move a painting and bust of Ryerson after a request from NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
— With files from the Canadian Press
Anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience can access this 24-hour, toll-free and confidential National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.