egerton ryerson

Protesters tear down statue of Egerton Ryerson on Toronto university campus

The statue of Egerton Ryerson, the namesake for Toronto's Ryerson University who is in part credited for Canada's public and residential school systems, has officially been felled by demonstrators who are calling for the institution to change its name.

The statue, like many in colonized nations around the world, has long been a controversial pain point, especially after the discovery of the remains of 215 children on the site of B.C.'s Kamloops Indigenous Residential School in late May.

Various demonstrations have been held at the base of the figure on the Ryerson campus in recent days, including a sit-in on May 31 intended to bring further attention to the atrocity of residential schools in Canada and to honour those found in the unmarked grave.

Ryerson's likeness was covered in red paint and surrounded by children's shoes, while messages reading "dig them up," "go home back to where you came from," "shame" and more were scrawled in spray paint on the site.

Approximately 1,000 people took part in another protest on Sunday afternoon, marching from Queen's Park to the school. After the crowd slowly dispersed around 6 p.m., a truck arrived on the scene and toppled the bronze.

The head was eventually removed, transported to the waterfront and tossed into Lake Ontario.

Activists have been demanding not only that the university remove the statue, but also change its name to cut ties with Ryerson — some students and staff have now been referring to the school simply as "University X" until a more suitable moniker is found.

As people have stated in various petitions against the effigy, Ryerson was "a known racist and sexist who aided the Canadian government in the creation of residential schools," and continuing to pay tribute to him is extremely damaging to Indigenous residents and to truth and reconciliation.

Amid calls to action, the institution's journalism school has decided to omit the Ryerson name from future publications of both The Ryerson Review of Journalism and The Ryersonian next academic year.

More than 350 students and faculty have also signed a revived petition to change the university's name.

"While we recognize a process is in place to address the legacy of Egerton Ryerson, the impact he, his name, and his role as an architect of the residential school system continues to have on Indigenous community members at the university is not an intellectual matter to be parsed out or managed through drawn-out institutional processes," it reads.

"We reject the notion that there is a choice here that can be made — one between the ongoing harm and violence that Indigenous students, faculty, and staff are telling us they are experiencing, and the concept of 'commemoration,' as defined by the institution. This is an issue of justice and restoration, and also one of dignity and care for those who are part of the X University community."

The school issued a formal statement on Sunday in which President Mohamed Lachemi indicated that the statue — which is also now headless — will not be restored or replaced.

Toronto Police are apparently investigating the circumstances surrounding the statue's fall.

Lead photo by

Charlize Alcaraz, with files from Sophie Chong


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