The president of the Manitoba Historical Society says it might make sense to move the upended Queen Victoria statue to a less-prominent part of the legislature grounds.

The president of the Manitoba Historical Society says it might make sense to move the upended Queen Victoria statue to a less-prominent part of the legislature grounds.

"It’s too raw right now," Gordon Goldsborough told the Free Press.

"Moving it back to its original location, I think, would be a mistake. I think that would be overly provocative, now that we know there are strongly held feelings about it."

Goldsborough, who has documented hundreds of historical sites around Manitoba, said he hasn’t heard of a statue being toppled in the province in modern times.

He also figured those who took down the statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II have lost public support in advocating for residential-school survivors.

"They may have got a lot of sympathy by (only) putting the red handprints on the base of the statue; that's powerful stuff," said Goldsborough.

"They potentially squandered a good opportunity. But on the other hand, it has certainly garnered attention."

Goldsborough said it makes sense that the province is opting to wait until tensions dissipate before deciding what to do with the Queen Victoria statue. But he argued the province should start consultations soon, instead of letting the statue sit in a warehouse for a year.

He said someone else could fill the space right in front of the Legislative Building's main doors; one possibility could be Chief Peguis, if Indigenous communities agree.

An alternative could be a monument of a provincial symbol instead of a statue of an individual, he said.

Goldsborough said there could even be a garden for statues of people that Manitobans no longer look up to but are part of the province’s history; the area could include plaques offering educational material. He argued against hiding statues in a warehouse or demolishing them.

"If we just obliterate all of the symbols of, for example, the residential-school system, we do so at our peril, because then we could potentially repeat those mistakes," he said.

He also argued the statue of Queen Elizabeth II should be put back in its spot at Government House immediately, at least for her duration as the reigning sovereign.

Goldsborough said Manitoba has not had such a heated controversy over statues since 1971, when a Louis Riel statue was installed on the legislature grounds.

That statue was controversial for years due to its depiction of a twisted, naked body and anguished face, which was meant to symbolize the suffering of the Métis. The statue was moved to the Université de Saint-Boniface in 1995 and replaced with the current, more lifelike, Riel statue.

Elsewhere, the City of Montreal is still deliberating what to do with the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald activists toppled last August. Officials said Monday they’re working on a process for how monuments should be conserved and displayed, and that the statue will be kept in storage until that policy is crafted.

In 1992, protesters removed the head of that statue honouring Canada's founding prime minister, an architect of the residential-school system. The head was replaced after a fundraiser garnered $40,000 in donations.

Meanwhile, the City of Regina is months into a consultation over where to put its Macdonald statue, which it removed from a central park in March after protests.

In Winnipeg, congregants of the Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of Sts. Vladimir and Olga are fundraising to pay for reinstalling the head and other pieces of a St. Volodymyr statue removed from the McGregor Street monument in May 2019. The cost is estimated at $25,000.

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

Dylan Robertson

Dylan Robertson
Parliamentary bureau chief

In Ottawa, Dylan enjoys snooping through freedom-of-information requests and asking politicians: "What about Manitoba?"

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