egerton ryerson statue

Ryerson president responds to defacing of statue on university campus

Three Black Lives Matter protestors were arrested this weekend for splattering paint on historical statues in Toronto, including the Egerton Ryerson monument on the Ryerson University campus, and the president just publicly responded to the acts of protest. 

Ryerson President Mohamed Lachemi released a public letter on the matter Tuesday morning and said that while the university has not yet decided whether or not the statue will be removed, he does encourage community members to continue debating, discussing and examining these kinds of issues.

"This past weekend, protests took place on our campus and at Queen's Park, which involved the painting of a number of statues including the statue of Egerton Ryerson," the letter reads.

"These situations can be difficult topics to discuss -- we all want our campus and our university community to be a place where we can feel safe. For our community, safety can mean very different things - each individual's lived experience informs their perspective."

He explained that starting this fall, a working group will hold consultations with students, faculty, and staff to explore how a "safety and security model that works for the entire Ryerson community" can be developed, adding that he strongly encourages anyone and everyone to take part.

Lachemi also said he believes it is a valuable attribute to have a community that publicly discusses controversial subjects such as this, and he acknowledged that sometimes this may manifest in the form of protests like the one that took place over the weekend.

"At this time, the university has not made a decision about the removal of the statue," the letter states.

"The university acknowledges Egerton Ryerson's contributions to Ontario's public educational system. As Chief Superintendent of Education, his recommendations were instrumental in the design and implementation of the Indian Residential School System."

Calls for the removal of the Egerton Ryerson statue are far from new, and they're partially what led the school to install a plaque alongside the monument back in 2018 in an effort to provide necessary context.

This, according to Lachemi, was one of the key recommendations brought forward by Ryerson's community consultation report in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. 

Still, many want the statue removed altogether, and a petition calling for its removal garnered thousands of signatures just last month. 

"While there is much going on in the world right now, I am encouraging all of us to make space to examine and discuss these difficult topics," Lachemi wrote.

"Learn from each other, take solace in one another and respect the multitude of perspectives and identities that makes Ryerson a richly diverse community."

Lead photo by

Black Lives Matter - Toronto


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