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Over the weekend, protesters in Toronto destroyed a statue of Egerton Ryerson after repeatedly graffitiing the base with the words “dig them up” — an apparent reference to the 215 suspected graves identified in a radar survey at the former site of Kamloops Indian Residential School. An early educational reformer who laid the groundwork for much of Canada’s system of public education, Ryerson’s role in the creation of residential schools is less direct. He drafted an influential 1847 report calling for religious-run “industrial” boarding schools in order to instill “civilization” in the “North American Indian,” but was long-dead before mandatory schools on this model began opening up across the country. Defenders of Ryerson’s legacy have often pointed out that he does not carry the markers of an anti-Indigenous historical figure. Ryerson spoke Ojibwe, he developed a close relationship with the Mississauga people outside of modern-day Toronto and even delivered the eulogy at the funeral of Peter Jones, a converted Ojibwe Methodist minister who had become one of Ryerson’s closest friends.

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