alexander wood statue

Controversial statue in Toronto removed and destroyed without notice

Alexander Wood has left the Village. Toronto's Church-Wellesley Village, that is, where a bronze statue of the gay pioneer was erected nearly two decades earlier.

It is not immediately clear if the statue was taken down by city staff, community organizers or vandals, but we do know that it was removed and crushed into rubble on Monday.

Photos from the scene taken yesterday show Wood sculpture's dismembered bronze body lying amid rocks in a dumpster. Photos taken today show an empty podium at the statue's location surrounded by caution tape.

Installed at Church and Alexander Streets in 2005, the eight-foot-tall statue was initially celebrated as a tribute to the history of Toronto's gay community, of which Wood (1772-1844) is considered a forefather.

It was designed by sculptor Del Newbigging at a cost of $200,000, split between the Church Wellesley Village Business Improvement Association (CWVBIA) and the City of Toronto. The Globe and Mail reported in 2005 that Wood was portrayed in the work as "a pony-tailed 25-year-old."

Newbigging himself told The Globe that he had "added a gay flair" to his depiction of Wood, and that the work portrays the scene which "outed him as a gay man and caused him to flee York (now Toronto) for his native Scotland." 

In June of 2021 amid the discovery of mass residential school graves across the country, the CWVBIA — the same organization that installed the statue — demanded that it be taken down.

"It has come to light that Alexander Wood was a founding board member and for many years the Treasurer for 'The Society for Converting and Civilizing the Indians and Propagating the Gospel among Destitute Settlers in Upper Canada'," reads a letter from the group addressed to Toronto Mayor John Tory on June 8, 2021.

"During the time of the existence of this 'Society' its main focus of work was the raising of funds and the development of 'Indian Mission Schools'. One such mission, which was started in Sault Saint Marie in 1832 shows a clear path from their initial school to the ultimate existence of the Shingwauk Residential School, which closed in 1978."

City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam expressed immediate support for the move, disclosing in a letter of her own that that she was a member of the CWVBIA when the statue was put up in 2005.

"I respect the CWVBIA's decision to remove the statue in light of this new information and will work with them and interested community members to achieve the desired outcomes expressed in the letter," she wrote at the time.

Some ten months later, the statue has fallen.

Again, we don't know how it came down — only that it disappeared without any notice on Monday. The City of Toronto has yet to respond to a request for comment regarding the matter.

Some online are livid and confused about the removal of the piece, arguing that Wood's ties to residential schools aren't strong enough to warrant destroying an iconic piece of queer history.

Others are happy to see it go, arguing back that Wood "held deeply racist beliefs."

Debate on the topic is futile at this point, however — the statue is already gone, mushed up into chunks that can hopefully be repurposed for something else.

Lead photo by

A Great Capture

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