Statues of two queens on the Manitoba legislature grounds that were torn down by protesters will be rebuilt, Premier Brian Pallister said Wednesday.
“Tearing down is a lot simpler than building up,” Pallister said at his first news conference since the Canada Day event.
He added he felt “disgust and disappointment” at the vandalism.
“I believe that Canada has been, and will always be, I hope, a nation that is an example to those around the world of our dedication to building.”
The statues were tied with ropes and hauled to the ground during a demonstration over the deaths of Indigenous children at residential schools.
The statue of Queen Victoria, larger and placed prominently near the main entrance to the legislature grounds, had its head removed. The head was recovered the next day from the nearby Assiniboine river.
A smaller statue of Queen Elizabeth II located close to the lieutenant-governor’s residence was toppled but left largely intact.
Assessments of the damage are ongoing, Pallister said.
The statue of Queen Elizabeth II is to be put back in the same place, he said, but the statue of Queen Victoria may end up in a different spot on the legislature grounds and its wording may be updated.
“That’s a consultative process we’re going to continue,” the premier said. He added that no one involved in the destruction of either statue will be part of the consultation.
The Progressive Conservative government promised last year to erect a statue of Chief Peguis, to commemorate the signing of the first treaty in Western Canada in 1817. It would be the first statue of a First Nations person on the legislature grounds.
As part of that effort, Pallister said, the plan has always been to update some of the language used on monuments so that they more accurately reflect history.
Pallister’s remarks on history, however, came under fire from the opposition parties, especially comments he made about people who came to Canada.
“The people who came here to this country — didn’t come here to destroy anything. They came here to build,” he said.
“They came to build better … and they built farms, and they built businesses, and they built communities and churches too.”
Nahanni Fontaine, justice critic for the Opposition New Democrats, who is Indigenous, took issue with the comments on social media.
“Reconciliation is impossible when you have a settler at the helm denying, romanticizing and minimizing colonization,” a message posted on Fontaine’s Twitter feed says.
“Canada was forged in the blood of our Peoples, on the bodies of our women and children, and in the theft of our lands.”
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said in a prepared statement that Pallister’s remarks were shameful and tone-deaf.
“This is the hard truth: Canada’s prosperity was built on Indigenous suffering and an indifference to Indigenous lives and rights.”