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BEYOND LOCAL: Statue of Queen Elizabeth unveiled on grounds of Ontario legislature

The Queen Elizabeth statue joins a statue of Queen Victoria elsewhere on the grounds of the legislature, which is known as Queen's Park
The newly placed statue honouring the late Queen Elizabeth II is unveiled at Queen's Park in Toronto on Tuesday, November 7, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

TORONTO — A newly placed statue of the late Queen Elizabeth was unveiled Tuesday at the Ontario legislature, marking the end of a years-long delay for the commemorative sculpture.

The bronze statue was designed and hand sculpted by artist Ruth Abernethy and depicts Queen Elizabeth II in 1977 on the throne in the Canadian Senate, delivering a speech on Canadian unity.

Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell said she hopes people who see the sculpture will think about the queen's life of service, about democracy and about reconciliation.

"In these times especially, symbols are so paramount," she said. 

"They carry entire stories within themselves. They stand in for the narratives by which we make sense of the world around us. They encourage us to pause, reflect and sometimes to explore and even challenge those stories, but to bring them understanding and deeper meaning. Designed to last for generations, this particular symbol embodies the continuity of her majesty and her commitment to service that lasted multiple generations."

The Queen Elizabeth statue joins a statue of Queen Victoria elsewhere on the grounds of the legislature, which is known as Queen's Park. Meanwhile, a decision has still not been made about what to do with a John A. Macdonald statue on the legislature grounds that's been boarded up for three years after being the target of repeated vandalism.

Queen Elizabeth and Dowdeswell spoke about the path to reconciliation during Dowdeswell's official audience with the queen, the vice regal said Tuesday.

"For me, when I look up at this statue on this land covered by Treaty 13, I reflect on the role of the Crown and on its relationships with Indigenous Peoples, a relationship that stretches back for hundreds of years and one that her majesty took very seriously."

Sol Mamakwa, the New Democratic representative for the riding of Kiiwetinoong and a member of the Kingfisher Lake First Nation, has previously said the monarch stands as an enduring symbol of the failure of the Crown to uphold its treaty obligations to Indigenous Peoples.

Chief R. Donald Maracle of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte was on hand Tuesday to offer prayers, and Young Creek Big Drum, Anishinaabe from the Wikwemikong First Nation performed drumming and singing.

The statue was conceived as a privately backed project to be unveiled in 2017, but fundraising efforts fell short so the government allocated $1.5 million to get the statue installed.

Premier Doug Ford said the statue is a tribute to a monarch who loved this country, which she visited often.

"(The statue) celebrates her 70 years of dedication and service to the people of Canada, the United Kingdom and the entire Commonwealth," he said. 

"It will serve as a lasting symbol of our traditions and values, and we hope to educate and inspire visitors to Queen's Park today and for generations to come."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 7, 2023.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press