WINNIPEG — A bronze statue of Queen Elizabeth that was toppled and damaged by protesters two years ago was put back in its place Friday on the grounds of the Manitoba legislature after a lengthy set of repairs.
The statue, almost three metres high, landed face first when it was hauled to the ground on Canada Day in 2021 by demonstrators following the discovery of suspected unmarked graves at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
"The face was pushed in, the arm was scraped, and the whole base was totally crooked, too," Charles Brunet, the third-generation owner of Brunet Monuments, recalled Friday as he and a crew of workers reinstalled the statue under a sweltering sun.
The repair, done in conjunction with a Saskatchewan company contracted by Brunet, also involved sandblasting and giving the statue a new protective coating.
"I'm so elated. I'm so excited. She is up, she is looking good. She's solid, too," he said with a chuckle. "I won't be called again, I hope."
The work was partly personal for Brunet, who had worked on installing the statue decades ago. It was originally in a less-prominent spot near the Manitoba Museum and was relocated to its current position — a garden beside the lieutenant-governor's house on the east side of the legislature — in 2010.
"We're so happy that's she's back in her home," he said.
The statue is now also more secure. There are more rods connecting the statue to its large base and also more rods linking the base to the monument's concrete foundation.
The statue was created in 1968 by renowned artist Leo Mol, who is honoured with an entire sculpture garden in Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park. It was one of two monuments toppled by protesters in 2021 over the deaths of children at residential schools.
The second — a larger statue of Queen Victoria that stood prominently near the main entrance to the legislature grounds — had its head removed and was damaged beyond repair.
The area where that statue stood is now an open stretch of grass, and the Progressive Conservative government has indicated it may remain an open place for public gathering instead of housing a monument to any one individual.
"There's a huge area for people to assemble now," James Teitsma, minister for government services, said Friday.
"We just want to make sure that the Manitoba legislative grounds are welcoming, are beautiful, and also reflect our shared stories and our history."
Although the statues were toppled in an area covered by security cameras, no one was ever charged with the vandalism.
Arlen Dumas, who was grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs at the time and was at a separate event, said he did not condone the toppling of the monuments. But he said people needed to keep in mind what was happening to Indigenous communities as they were dealing with the legacy of residential schools.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs did not immediately respond to an interview request Friday.
There are many other statues on the legislature grounds, including monuments to Métis leader Louis Riel and Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko.
The government is planning to have a memorial to Chief Peguis and other signatories of the first treaty in Manitoba put up in the near future. It would be the first monument to a First Nations person on the grounds.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2023
Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press