Controversial statue in Toronto removed and destroyed without notice

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

It’s not immediately clear if the statue was taken down by city staff, community organizers or vandals, but we do know it was removed and reduced to rubble on Monday.

Photos from the scene taken yesterday show the dismembered bronze body of the wooden sculpture lying among the rocks in a dumpster. Photos taken today show an empty podium at the statue’s location wrapped in duct tape.

Installed at Church and Alexander streets in 2005, the eight-foot-tall statue was first celebrated as a tribute to the history of The gay community of Toronto, of which Wood (1772-1844) is considered an ancestor.

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 described in the work as “a 25-year-old man with a ponytail”.

Newbigging himself told The Globe he had “added a gay touch” to his portrayal of Wood, and that the work depicts the scene which “unmasked him as a homosexual and caused him to flee York (now Toronto) for his native Scotland.”

In June 2021, amid the discovery of mass graves at boarding schools across the country, the CWVBIA – the same organization that installed the statue – demanded that it be taken down.

“It appeared that Alexander Wood was a founding member of the Board of Directors and for many years the Treasurer of ‘The Society for Indian Conversion and Civilization and the Propagation of the Gospel among the Destitute Settlers of the Upper Canada'”, reads a letter of the group addressed to the mayor of Toronto, John Tory, on June 8, 2021.

“During the existence of this ‘Society’, its main object of work was the raising of funds and the development of the ‘Indian Missionary Schools.’ One of these missions, which began in Sault Sainte Marie in 1832, shows a clear path from their initial school to the ultimate existence of the Shingwauk Boarding School, which closed in 1978.”

Councilwoman Kristyn Wong-Tam expressed immediate support for the move, revealing in a letter to her that she was a member of the CWVBIA when the statue was erected 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. .

About ten months later, the statue fell.

Again, we don’t know how it happened – only that he disappeared without notice on Monday. The City of Toronto has not yet responded to a request for comment on the matter.

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

Others are happy to see him go, arguing that Wood”held deeply racist beliefs.”

However, debate on the subject is futile at this point – the statue is already gone, reduced to pieces that hopefully can be reused for something else.

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