A statue honouring Fr. Joseph-Henri Tabaret (1828-1886), OMI, was vandalized with red paint with the word "colonizer" also painted in front of the sculpture. The statue is situated outside Tabaret Hall at the University of Ottawa. The vandalism was discovered May 24, 2024. A pro-Palestine encampment has been established nearby the statue for over a month. The statue was commissioned in 1886 and officially installed at the university in 1889. It moved to its current location in 1944. Christopher Adam

Vandals desecrate Ottawa statue honouring Oblate

  • May 27, 2024

A University of Ottawa statue honouring the late Fr. Joseph-Henri Tabaret, OMI located steps from a pro-Palestinian encampment on campus was discovered vandalized on May 24.

Red paint covered the rendering of the French-born Catholic priest (1828-86) and the granite pedestal upholding the bronze sculpture. The word “colonizer” was marked in black on the sidewalk underneath the statue in front of the Tabaret Hall administrative building.

The Catholic Register was informed of this incident by Christopher Adam, a historian and University of Ottawa alumnus. The statue is close to encampments established by pro-Palestine protesters in late April to pressure the university to sever all financial ties to Israel. As of May 27, no statement has officially blamed the demonstrators for defiling the statue. 

Adam sharply criticized the perpetrators as intolerant and ignorant.

"The activists who vandalized the statue of Fr. Tabaret may feel that they were driven by righteous rage, yet all they've done is expose their own puritanical intolerance of any narrative not their own, as well as their ignorance,” said Adam. “Fr. Tabaret stood on the fault lines of the English/French divide in Canada, erecting a bilingual institution even while faced with the harsh linguistic acrimony of the day. 

“The monument in his honour stands in Ottawa's Rideau-Vanier Ward, home to a vibrant Franco-Ontarian community — including Paroisse Sacré-Coeur, an Oblate parish located less than a block away,” continued Adam. “Without Fr. Tabaret's commitment to education and his embrace of linguistic tolerance, the pro-Palestinian protesters who have appropriated the vast lawn named in his memory wouldn't have anywhere to pitch their tents."

Tabaret’s historical imprint on the university is considerable. He co-founded the academic establishment originally known as the College of Bytown alongside his fellow Oblates in 1848. He served at this postsecondary institution for over 30 years in various capacities. In 1861, the year he began his first of three separate stints as rector (president), the name of the higher-ed school was changed to College of Ottawa for five years before securing a university charter in 1866. He served in the presidential role from 1861-1864, 1867-1874 and 1877-1886.

Julie Kavanagh, a corporate communications specialist with the Ottawa Police Service (OPS), wrote in a May 24 email that no one has reported this incident to OPS. She encouraged anyone with information “about acts of violence or vandalism to report them to police” by calling 911 or filing a report online. 

Despite repeated entreaties, the University of Ottawa has not responded to the Register’s inquiries into the vandalism. 

Ottawa councillor Stéphanie Plante told local media outlets that “everybody has the right to express themselves but we also have to understand that there are some pillars and there is some history in the neighbourhood and we want to make sure that history is respected.”

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