Some of the city’s downtown ghost statues were recently branded with red paint handprints, similar to vandalism done elsewhere in the country.
The statues include Sounds the Alarm near the downtown Red Deer Public Library branch, Let the Music Play in City Hall Park, Francis Wright Galbraith near City Hall, and Doris and Mickey in Coronation Park.
Handprints made from red paint have become a symbol used in reaction to the discovery of unmarked graves found at former residential school sites. On Thursday in Winnipeg, the statue of Queen Victoria, on the grounds of the Manitoba legislature, was covered in red paint and its base had red handprints on it.
Kristen Walsh, Safe and Healthy Communities manager with the City of Red Deer said Canada’s residential school system is a dark chapter in the country’s history.
“It is believed, but not confirmed that it’s in response to the recent uncovering of unmarked graves at residential schools,” said Walsh.
“We can understand certainly, given the harm that was caused to the Indigenous community, that emotions and tensions are certainly running high.
“It’s our hope, that the anger and emotions that people are feeling, can be tempered. We are hopeful that we can find some ways to work together to find a path towards reconciliation. I think that’s a long road ahead of us.”
Lyle Keewatin Richards, a member of the Remembering the Children Society, said he was surprised that ghost statues were the target. In Calgary, vandalism has occurred at places of worship.
“It seems a little misdirected. I don’t know what Doris has to do with residential schools,” said Keewatin Richards about the statue of Doris who became friends with Mickey the beaver in the 1940s.
The Remembering the Children Society has worked for over a decade to identify and mark the forgotten graves on the site of the former Red Deer Indian Industrial School.
Across Canada, the number of grave discoveries continues to climb. Lower Kootenay Band recently reported 182 human remains in unmarked graves at a site close to a former residential school in Cranbrook, B.C. Last week, Cowessess First Nation said 751 unmarked graves were detected at the former Marieval Indian Residential School, not long after the discovery of what are believed to be the remains of 215 children in Kamloops, B.C.
Keewatin Richards said the red hand prints on local statues could have been made by anybody copying what was done elsewhere, but there is a lot of anger in the Indigenous community and people are going to express it.
“This isn’t even started. Every day that tally (of unmarked graves) goes higher and higher. There’s a lot of people I talk to (asking) what am I suppose to do with my anger?”
He said Canadians today may not have been directly involved in the residential school system, but each and everyone “stands on our ancestors shoulders.”
“People say I didn’t have anything to do with it. Whose land are you farming on right now?”
Red Deer RCMP Cpl. Mike Evans said anyone who sees this kind of vandalism should report it to the police.
He said the city’s public works department was notified of the vandalism Thursday night and was assessing the damage.
City officials explained Friday plans are in the works to clean up the statues.