Prosecutors mull charges in Canada Day toppling of queen statues

Winnipeg police have wrapped up their investigation into the toppling of two statues of queens at the legislature on Canada Day and their report has been passed along to the Crown attorney's office to decide whether to proceed with charges.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/10/2021 (518 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg police have wrapped up their investigation into the toppling of two statues of queens at the legislature on Canada Day and their report has been passed along to the Crown attorney’s office to decide whether to proceed with charges.

Police service spokeswoman Const. Dani McKinnon said investigators collected “a lot of evidence” from video surveillance and other cameras, and interviewed people who witnessed the toppling of statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. The information has been handed to the Manitoba Prosecution Service, which will determine whether criminal charges should be laid.

McKinnon couldn’t comment on what those charges might be or how many people might be charged.

Manitoba’s justice department confirmed it had received the file.

In the wake of the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at former Indian Residential School sites in B.C. and Saskatchewan, thousands demonstrated peacefully across Canada.

In Winnipeg, one crowd of demonstrators gathered in front of the legislature and used ropes to pull a larger-than-life statue of Queen Victoria off its base, covering it with painted red hand prints. Several posed for selfies on top of the downed 117-year-old bronze monument. Victoria reigned over Canada when treaties were negotiated and the federal government adopted the Indian Residential School system as policy. The head of the statue was removed and later found in the Assiniboine River behind the legislature.

Nearby, a 2.7-metre statue of Queen Elizabeth outside Government House was also toppled.

No one was arrested that day.

The defaced monuments were taken from the grounds to an undisclosed location, and Manitoba’s justice minister promised to take action.

“Make no mistake: those efforts underway to investigate are important and those responsible for acts of violence and destruction will be held accountable,” Cameron Friesen said on July 5. This week, his press secretary said he stands by what he said at that time.

Some Indigenous leaders say the incident should be used to educate and promote reconciliation.

Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand said he wouldn’t comment on the matter of charges being laid but hopes the authorities understand and take into account what prompted the demonstrators’ actions.

“We recognize that the act of pulling the statues down was done collectively, as a community expression of anger and frustration over the harms done to our people through the residential and day school systems, the Sixties Scoop and the child welfare system’s policy of apprehension,” he said.

Chief Dennis Meeches, spokesman for Treaty One, declined to comment on whether charges should be laid but issued a statement about the future of the statues. “In the spirit of reconciliation, we ask the provincial government to convene a working group so our voices can be heard and solutions sought that respect our shared history together.”

Chartrand said the statues’ fate should be determined in consultation with Indigenous governments and communities. An educational component should be included to help Manitobans understand the complex relationship between the Crown, the Queen and Indigenous people, Chartrand said.

As for the bronze statues, a spokeswoman for the provincial government said there was “extensive” damage.

Because of the unique nature of the casting and the processes required to fix them “we are continuing to work with a specialist bronze caster to explore repair options,” she said.

“As repair and costing options are ongoing, no decision can be made yet regarding the future of the statues.”

A group of federally elected Conservatives who urged then-premier Brian Pallister on July 2 to fix and restore the statues as soon as possible are now waiting to follow up with Manitoba’s next premier.

The letter signed by the seven Conservative MPs from Manitoba, Sen. Don Plett, and Kenora MP Eric Melillo said the “vandalism at the legislature” is a criminal act contrary to reconciliation.

“We cannot allow a small number of individuals to subvert our democracy or erode our democratic institutions. Therefore, we respectfully request that the statues… be repaired and restored to the legislative grounds as soon as possible,” the letter said.

When asked if they’ll push the next premier — either Heather Stefanson or Shelly Glover after the PCs choose a leader Oct. 30 — a spokesman for Kildonan-St. Paul MP Raquel Dancho would only say the Manitoba caucus is meeting next week and may discuss “engagement” with the new premier.

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.


Updated on Thursday, October 21, 2021 6:59 PM CDT: Adds comments

Updated on Thursday, October 21, 2021 8:30 PM CDT: Fixes typo.

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