Replace broken

Victoria captain James Cook will not be replaced

The Greater Victoria Ports Authority is taking its first steps to remove an empty pedestal on the inner harbor causeway that supported a statue of Captain James Cook, torn down and thrown into the ocean during Canada Day protests last year .

The fiberglass statue was shattered into pieces when a group slipped a rope around her neck on July 1, 2021 and pulled her down, throwing her into the inner harbor and leaving half of a leg and a foot on a pedestal stained with red handprints.

It cannot be repaired and the Port Authority has no plans to replace it, CEO Ian Robertson said. Instead, they will remove the pedestal and the two accompanying plaques while working with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations to determine what should replace it.

Councilors in Victoria on Thursday approved an application for a Port Authority Heritage Alteration Permit, which allows the removal of the six-foot-tall granite pedestal from designated heritage property owned by the Port Authority. The statue was not considered to have heritage value.

Songhees leader Ron Sam said he was not working directly on the consultation on what should replace the statue and was unaware of the progress of the work. Esquimalt chief Robert Thomas could not be reached.

Robertson said there is no timeline yet for the removal of the pedestal.

Before being torn down, the statue was to be discussed at a meeting of the Port Authority’s First Nations Economic Development Committee.

“As part of our overall placement of the Inner Harbor on our properties, we weren’t just looking at this particular statue, but the whole area, and it was on our radar. And now, with the demolition of the statue, it kind of spurred us on to move that process forward,” Robertson said.

The remaining pieces of the statue are in the Port Authority’s maintenance shop and will eventually be disposed of through an environmentally friendly process, he said.

The statue, a copy of a bronze original which stands at Cook’s home port of Whitby, England, was installed in 1976 to mark the 200th anniversary of the voyage that brought Cook to the island’s coast of Vancouver.

Its reversal on Canada Day followed the discovery of unmarked graves near three former residential schools, sparking renewed anger over the harm done to Indigenous communities by colonization and government-sanctioned institutions, which have removed generations of Indigenous children from their families in an effort to strip them of their language and culture.

Cook, a British explorer, made the first European contact with the east coast of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands and sailed along the west coast of Canada in 1778, anchoring at Nootka Sound. Monuments to him have been vandalized elsewhere, including in Hawaii, where Cook was killed in battle in 1779.

In recent years, statues of Cook in Melbourne, Australia, have been targeted each year on January 26, the country’s National Day. Two landmarks were splashed with red paint in Melbourne on Wednesday as Australians marked Australia Day.

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