A controversial statue of Egerton Ryerson was knocked down in Toronto on Sunday during a rally in response to the discovery of a mass grave of Indigenous children buried on the site of a former residential school in Canada.
Ryerson is credited as one of the key architects of Canada’s residential school system. The statue, which was displayed prominently on the campus of Ryerson University, has come under increased condemnation after the remains of 215 Indigenous children were recently uncovered at what used to be the site of Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, BC. Earlier in the week, the statue had been doused in red paint and marked with graffiti referring to the tragic discovery.
Over the years, there had been growing calls among staff and students for the statue to be removed from campus.
The process was expedited on Sunday. A video posted to Twitter shows a rope tied to the figure and a crowd cheering as it topples to the ground.
Photos from the scene show that the statue’s head was removed after it hit the ground.
More photos on Twitter show the statue being tossed into Lake Ontario.
In a statement issued Monday morning, Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi said the fallen statue “will not be restored or replaced.”
“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. 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,” wrote Lachemi.
According to Lachemi, over 1,000 people took part in the protest that began at Queen’s Park and ended on Gould Street.
“About an hour after the last of the people left, a truck arrived on Gould Street and proceeded to pull down the statue of Egerton Ryerson. We are relieved that no one was injured in the process,” he said.
Toronto police say they are investigating the incident.