TORONTO — The president of Ryerson University in Toronto says a statue of the university’s namesake, Egerton Ryerson, has been pulled down by protesters and will not be replaced.
A statement from university president Mohamed Lachemi says the statue was felled by demonstrators about an hour after the conclusion of a demonstration protesting the university’s continued use of Ryerson’s name.
Demonstrators splattered the statue with paint, then cut off the head of the statue, carried it to the lakeshore and lowered by rope into the water.
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Ryerson is credited as one of the architects of Canada’s residential school system, which sought to convert and assimilate Indigenous children into Canadian culture and saw them suffer widespread physical and sexual abuse. He died in 1882.
His statue had become a rallying point in Toronto following the discovery of remains of 215 Indigenous children buried in unmarked graves on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops.
The statement from Lachemi says the statue will not be “restored or replaced,” and he is relieved no one was hurt when the statute was brought down.
Toronto police say the removal of the statute is under investigation.
The statue had been vandalized last week and covered in red paint and graffiti that read “show the world how many of us you have murdered”, “dig them up” and “land back.”
A focus of fierce debate in recent years, activist groups, students and faculty had been asking for the monument to be removed.
Ryerson University has addressed the matter in the past. In 2010, the university published a statement saying that while Ryerson did not implement or oversee residential schools, his beliefs “influenced, in part, the establishment of what became the Indian Residential School system.”
Eight years later, the school added a sign beside the statue that read, in part: “As Chief Superintendent of Education, Ryerson’s recommendations were instrumental in the design and implementation of the Indian Residential School System.”
More recently, there have even been calls to rename Ryerson University, with the school’s journalism department saying on June 2 it would rename two of its publications ahead of the new school year, dropping any reference to the man the school is named after.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available for anyone affected by residential schools. You can call 1-866-925-4419 24 hours a day to access emotional support and services.