Many cities canceled Canada Day events because of scandals about indigenous children that brought them directly to colonial history.
Protesters in Winnipeg, Canada, overthrew the statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II because people became increasingly angry that the remains of hundreds of children were found in the unmarked graves of the former Aboriginal school.
Before the traditional celebration of Canada’s National Day on Thursday was held across the country, the crowd chanted “Don’t be proud of the genocide” and then overturned the statue of the monarch.
However, this year, many cities canceled events due to the Aboriginal children scandal that allowed Canadians to face their colonial history. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that this day will be a “time for reflection.”
The hashtag #CancelCanadaDay became popular on social media, and gatherings in support of indigenous communities were held across the country.
Nearly 1,000 unmarked graves were found in former boarding schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, which are mainly operated by the Catholic Church and funded by the government.
For 165 years, as recently as 1996, schools forcibly separated indigenous children from their families, leaving them malnourished and subjected to physical and sexual abuse. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission called it “cultural genocide” in 2015.
In Winnipeg, when the statue of Queen Victoria fell outside the legislature of Manitoba, the crowd cheered. The protesters, many of them wearing orange clothes, also kicked the collapsed statue and danced around it. The pedestal and statue are painted with red paint handprints.
The nearby statue of Queen Elizabeth was also torn down. She is the current head of state of Canada, and Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901 when Canada was part of the British Empire.
Protests in support of indigenous children were also held in Toronto, the financial center of Canada, and the #CancelCanadaDay march in the capital Ottawa attracted thousands of victims and survivors of the boarding school system.
Vigils and rallies were held in other parts of the country. Many participants wore orange clothes, which has become a symbol of sports.
The Canadian flag on the Peace Tower in Ottawa pays tribute to indigenous children at half-mast, as does the flag on the central tower of the Quebec National Assembly.
“This year, the tragic history of boarding schools obscured the celebration of Canada’s National Day,” said Francois Legault, the governor of Quebec.
In his speech on Canada’s National Day, Trudeau stated that the remains of the children found in the former school “as a matter of course force us to reflect on our country’s historical failures”. He added that there are still injustices among the indigenous people of Canada and many others.