'Honestly, I was disappointed': AMC Grand Chief on statue toppling

An incident Thursday in which statues were toppled on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislative building is being called ‘unfortunate’ by Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) Grand Chief Arlen Dumas.

Some demonstrators brought down and defaced statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II following an otherwise peaceful march titled, “No Pride in Genocide’ through the streets of downtown Winnipeg.

The walk-and-ride event, organized by several Indigenous groups, was meant to honour survivors and victims of Canada’s residential schools. This dark legacy was brought into sharper focus by the discovery of the remains of 215 children on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. in late May.

On Friday, Dumas told CTV Morning Live he would never condone anything like what was done to the statues.

"Honestly, I was disappointed," he said. He did acknowledge that the Kamloops discovery has been difficult to process for many, especially the young.

“You take a look at the young people there, it’s a very triggering time. I’ve never had so many people come forward to me and say this is the first time my grandmother or my grandfather has talked about residential schools. My parents have never talked about this,” Dumas said.

Dumas expressed pride and gratitude to all Winnipeggers who formed what he called, ‘ a sea of orange’ as they participated in the march, which began outside the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

“At the beginning, there was an elderly woman, I believe she was Polish or Ukrainian (who) came running up to the front of the march and asked, ‘Am I welcome?’ I said, ‘Of course you’re welcome.’ She walked the entire way,” said Dumas.

Dumas said he was able to cover some of the route riding on horseback, which had him contemplating the experiences of his ancestors.

“I was thinking back to my grandfather’s generation. He would have needed permission to leave the reserve and come to Winnipeg. Just to be here literally two generations later, I’m riding on horseback down Portage Avenue in a sea of people from all communities in Manitoba supporting that walk.”

In closing, while Dumas repeated his disappointment at what happened to the statues on the Legislature grounds, he suggested a possible path toward a more reflective representation of Manitoba’s history.

“Maybe we need to work together to actually put something back in replacement of those statues that would be more reflective of who we are as a province. My message yesterday was trying to remind everybody that fundamentally we need to care for one another and we have to figure out how we move forward.”