By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government may not erect a new monument to replace a statue of Queen Victoria that was torn down by protesters almost two years ago.
No final decision has been made, but the minister in charge of the grounds says it might be best to leave the prominent area on the legislature’s front lawn as an open stretch of grass.
“I would hesitate to give pre-eminence to any one particular representation of Manitoba,” James Teitsma, who was appointed government services minister in a cabinet shuffle in January, said in an interview.
“Personally, I’m more inclined to leave the front open and available for public gatherings and … I want the people to be the focus, I guess, in that area, not a particular statue.”
The Queen Victoria statue was tied with ropes and hauled to the ground on Canada Day in 2021 during a demonstration over the deaths of Indigenous children at residential schools. The statue was covered with red paint. Its head was removed and found the next day in the nearby Assiniboine River.
The area is covered by security cameras, but no one was charged with the destruction.
Last year, the government deemed the statue beyond repair and rejected the idea of replicating it due to an estimated cost of more than $500,000.
A smaller statue of Queen Elizabeth II on the east grounds of the legislature was also toppled but suffered less damage. It has been repaired and is to go back up in the same location at a date yet to be determined, Teitsma said.
The Progressive Conservative government has been consulting a variety of groups on potential monuments on the grounds. There are currently several statues of people such as Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, Métis Leader Louis Riel and British general James Wolfe, but there isn’t a statue of a First Nations person.
That is to change shortly.
Plans are well underway for a monument to Chief Peguis and four other chiefs who signed the first treaty in what is now Manitoba.
The monument is to go in the northwest corner of the legislature grounds. A committee set up to plan the statue recently narrowed its selection down to two bidders, who will be asked to submit designs.