Statue of Egerton Ryerson on university campus toppled

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

Toppled Statue of Egerton Ryerson

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

The statue “will not be restored or replaced,” the school’s president said on Monday

There had been growing calls in recent years from staff and students for the statue of Ryerson, considered one of the prim

ary architects of Canada’s residential school system, to be removed from the university’s downtown campus. 

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.

Last 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.

Statement from Ryerson’s President and Vice Chancellor

Mohamed Lachemi  

Mohamed Lachemi

The statue will not be restored or replaced. The question of the statue was only one of many being considered by the Standing Strong (Mash Koh Wee Kah Pooh Win) Task Force, whose mandate includes consideration of the university’s name, responding to the legacy of Egerton Ryerson, and other elements of commemoration on campus. Their work is now more important than ever. I ask our community to respect their work and to engage with them as we should engage with all matters at our university – through dialogue, debate and the exchange of ideas.

The PDF fileTruth and Reconciliation Commission’s Principles, opens in new window provide the building blocks needed for reconciliation. It is the framework by which these questions will be deliberated, with the utmost respect for the Indigenous communities and nations in Canada.