A prominent First Nations activist is calling on the City of Victoria to “remove all monuments that celebrate settler colonialism.”
Siiam Hamilton tweeted video on Thursday of a group of people ripping down the James Cook statue in Victoria’s Inner Harbour.
The statue was then thrown into the water. In the statue’s place, the crowd erected a wooden red dress.
The dress symbolizes murdered and missing Indigenous girls and women.
The statue was later retrieved by dive teams and was missing its head.
Hamilton, who was one of the Indigenous youth who led protests at the legislature around the Coastal Gas Link pipeline through Wet’sewet’en land, said the statue was thrown into the water by ‘Nuu Chah Nulth Youth and Friends’.
She is also actively involved in the Fairy Creek protests.
The country is in the midst of a wider conversation around what to do with statues and monuments connected to Canada’s colonial past.
Statues of people seen as symbols of colonialism and oppression of Black, Indigenous and other people of colour have been toppled across Canada and the United States over the past few years.
Cook sailed along the west coast of Canada in 1778, anchoring in Nootka Sound while seeking a northern route from the Pacific to the Atlantic. The explorer mapped out the areas he visited and renamed them, wiping out the Indigenous names.
Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law and University of Victoria professor John Borrows says the usefulness of destroying these statues is contentious.
“There is a lot of diversity in Indigenous communities and people are going to fall on a spectrum of ideas of this toppling. I would love to see this done more in Indigenous law,” Borrows said.
“Part of this is hopefully engaging more deeply and getting past the symbolism and to the substance.”
Victoria police investigators are asking for information and video after the Captain Cook statue in Victoria was damaged on Thursday.
Investigators are asking for information and video of the incident.
“Safe, peaceful and lawful protests are permitted under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Property damage is not,” police said in a statement.