Toronto neighbourhood calls for racist statue to be removed 16 years after it was erected
Protestors recently rid Ryerson campus of Egerton Ryerson for his part in Canada's residential school system, and now Toronto's gay village is saying that another statue has to go.
In a letter to Mayor John Tory this past Tuesday, the Church-Wellesley Village BIA called for the statue of Alexander Wood, which has stood at the corner of Alexander and Church since 2005, to be removed.
The BIA has unanimously decided to call for Wood's statue to come down after a discovery by the chair of the board Christoper Hudspeth.
A deep dive into the Toronto Public Library archives, following the mounting tension around Ryerson, revealed that Wood was the treasurer and a founding member of an organization that opened the Shingwauk Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie.
The school, which closed in 1978, was part of a residential school system designed to separate Indigenous people from their families and cultures.
"It hurts Indigenous people greatly to see these kinds of people immortalized when they're nothing more than scoundrels," Hudspeth told blogTO. "As far as I'm concerned, it's just another one of our many symbols of white supremacy and colonization in this country."
The eight-foot solid bronze statue by the late Canadian sculptor Del Newbigging cost $200,000 (split by the BIA and the City) and was erected to honour the early Canadian merchant as one of the forefathers of the Gay Village.
The plaque on the statue describes Wood as a "militia officer, businessman, public servant, justice of the peace, gay pioneer."
But Hudspeth, who owns Pegasus on Church, says no direct historical evidence indicates Wood's sexual orientation, other than a sex scandal in 1810.
Wood took it upon himself to inspect soldiers' genitals while investigating a rape at Fort York. The scandal and jokes that resulted led him to flee to his homeland of Scotland before returning to Canada two years later, where he lived for the following 21 years.
The BIA awaits a response to their letter and has plans to convert the spot where Wood currently stands into a new project in collaboration with the Two-spirit community, starting in the fall.
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