Statue of Catholic priest vandalized with orange paint, 'colonizer' graffiti

The colour orange is associated with Indigenous communities in Canada and represents 'the stripping away of culture, freedom and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children over generations.'

Statue of Catholic priest vandalized with orange paint, 'colonizer' graffiti
Christopher Adam, X / cpadam81
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A statue of Joseph-Henri Tabaret, a French-born Catholic priest and academic, best known for his long and significant association with the University of Ottawa, was vandalized with orange paint over the weekend.

The monument, which sits outside of the namesake Tabaret Hall, was the site of an anti-Israel encampment for several weeks, though it is not known if one of those protesters is behind the defacing. Spraypainted at the foot of the statue's base is the word "colonizer." The statue is situated directly opposite the encampments established around the end of April.

Ottawa police had no information about the defacing incident on Saturday.

Rideau-Vanier Councillor Stéphanie Plante stated in a brief email on Saturday night that she was aware of the vandalism.

“I have had complaints from residents and alumni who were sad to see the vandalism and they have commented that M. Tabaret was a staunch supporter of bilingualism and a founder of uOttawa.” she said to the Ottawa Citizen.

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe was reached for comment by the Citizen, though no spokesperson was available.

Shortly after learning that anti-Israel protesters intended to set up a camp on the property, associate vice-president for student affairs Eric Bercier issued a letter stating that "freedom of expression" was valued.

“We continue to feel the pain and anxiety that many in our university community are experiencing due to the scale of suffering in the Middle East,” he wrote.

“As always, our institution supports and protects the right to peaceful protest as a cornerstone of both our university mission and our democratic life.”

He did note, however, that protesting on university property was a “privilege, not a right.”

According to the University of Ottawa:

The plan to erect a statue in honor of Father Tabaret was approved in 1886 at the general meeting of the Alumni Association of the College of Ottawa. Members wanted to perpetuate the memory of Tabaret, who served as the superior of the college for nearly 30 years.

From 1889, the figure of Father Tabaret stood proudly in front of the main entrance of the University. The statue wasn’t damaged by the great fire of 1903, which completely destroyed the University. Nevertheless, as the façade of the new main building no longer faced onto Wilbrod (now Séraphin Marion), the bronze statue was moved in 1912 to the foot of the large front steps of Tabaret Hall. In 1944, the Administrative Committee had it moved to its current location.

The colour orange is associated with Indigenous communities in Canada and represents "the stripping away of culture, freedom and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children over generations."

Attacks on Catholic churches and symbols have become commonplace in Canada since the widespread allegation that human remains were discovered at several residential schools across the country, with over 100 churches having been vandalized or burned down since. No remains have been confirmed at the locations, and several experts have spoken out against the claims. 

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