Statue of Egerton Ryerson on university campus toppled, police say

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TORONTO — A much-maligned statue of Egerton Ryerson was toppled in Toronto on Sunday.

The statue, prominently displayed on the campus of Ryerson University, has come under renewed scrutiny after the discovery in Kamloops, B.C., of what are believed to be the remains of 215 Indigenous children at a former residential school.

Ryerson is credited as one of the architects of Canada’s residential school system.

His statue now lies on its side on the pedestrian-only road where it once stood, splattered in red paint.

Toronto Police Const. Alex Li says officers are investigating the statue’s toppling.

He says a protest travelled from the provincial legislature to the Ryerson campus on Sunday afternoon.

The on-campus statue of Ryerson — and the university’s relationship with its namesake — has long been controversial.

In 2010, the school published a statement saying that while Ryerson did not implement or oversee residential schools, his beliefs “influenced, in part, the establishment of what became the Indian Residential School system.”

Eight years later, the school added a plaque beside the statue.

It reads, in part, “As Chief Superintendent of Education, Ryerson’s recommendations were instrumental in the design and implementation of the Indian Residential School System.”

Ryerson was first named to the post in 1844 and held it until  his retirement in 1876, nine years after Confederation.

The issue of Ryerson’s legacy came back to the fore last summer when the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis prompted anti-racism protests all over the world.

In July, the school’s statue of Ryerson was splashed with pink paint.

Two campus publications have also opted to change their names to remove the reference to Ryerson.

Meanwhile, the Ontario legislature last week relocated a painting and bust of Ryerson following a request from the leader of the Opposition.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s office wrote to the legislature’s speaker requesting that the artwork, which was displayed directly outside her office, be moved.