Photo by David von Diemar on Unsplash

Probe into beheaded Sudbury statues stalled

  • July 4, 2020

The investigation into the beheading of eight Stations of the Cross statues at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in downtown Sudbury has hit a standstill.

Staff Sgt. Sherry Young of Greater Sudbury Police said the May 22 statue decapitation investigation cannot move forward as there is no video surveillance, suspects or witnesses.

The Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie is the Grotto’s caretaker. The site, built in 1907, has a rich history for being a celebrated prayer and gathering place for Northern Ontario’s French-language community.

“We’re saddened that this happened,” said David Sirois, a spokesperson and assistant diocesan financial administrator for the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie. “We had those statues for several years and have never had issues with those particular statues before. We have had other vandalism at the Grotto before but not at the statues.”

Sirois said the Grotto fountain was vandalized with graffiti in 2014 and 2015. No suspect was ever identified for either incident, but the fountain ultimately did get restored. 

The incident comes at a time when statues of historic figures are coming under scrutiny for past indiscretions. A number of American statues with connections to the south’s Confederate, slave-owning legacy have been torn down in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a  46-year-old Black man, while in police custody.

In Canada, some communities have taken down statues commemorating Sir John A. MacDonald, Canada’s first prime minister, and other figures have come under scrutiny for connections to wrongs done to Canada’s Indigenous peoples.

The diocese continues to await updates from police while it works with insurance to see if the statues can be repaired or replaced. 

Another Ontario city has also recorded an act of vandalism to a statue with Catholic connections. In Orillia, north of Toronto, the base of an historical monument which had a statue of explorer Samuel de Champlain, containing figures of a Jesuit priest and an Indigenous person, and the staircases leading up to it was covered with red paint. The figure itself at Couchiching Beach Park was removed by Parks Canada in 2017 for restoration and repairs.

There has been resistance to how the original monument depicted Indigenous people sitting at the feet of the famed fur trader. The Catholic Register reported in 2019 that the Jesuit statue wouldn’t return when the monument is mounted again.

The Canadian Jesuits were not involved in the renovation of the monuments. Fr. Peter Bisson told The Register that “whatever promotes reconciliation, we support it.”

The Champlain statue is slated to be reinstated by mid-August by Parks Canada but in a reimagined state, detailing a more complete history of Champlain’s history and interactions with local Indigenous. also reports that an anti-monument rally wasplanned for Canada Day. 

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