The Squamish Nation says it had reached an agreement with the City of Vancouver to remove the Gassy Jack Deighton statue before the figure was toppled by demonstrators.
Numerous people took to Twitter Monday (Feb. 14) afternoon to share photos and videos of the statue, located at Carrall and Water streets, being pulled down with ropes by people in the crowd. After the statue was toppled, demonstrators replaced it with a lone red dress and red paint.
The demonstration took place during the 31st annual Women's Memorial March in the city's Downtown Eastside, which drew hundreds of people to honour the lives of women who have gone missing or been murdered.
Squamish Nation councillor and spokesperson Wilson Williams provided the following statement to Vancouver Is Awesome.
"The Squamish Nation needs to lead work that involves our ancestors through respect and collaboration. In that spirit, the Squamish Nation had come to an agreement with the City of Vancouver to remove the Gassy Jack Deighton statue. The discussions were ongoing, focused on a culturally safe and respectful process that would bring dignity and healing to all involved. The Nation was in consultation with our community and the descendants of our respected ancestor Madeline - Gassy Jack's former wife. She was a courageous woman our Nation looks up to, and today has many descendants alive in our community. We are concerned about unsafe actions that risk people's personal safety and remain focused on supporting justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women."
Mayor Kennedy Stewart took to Twitter to remark that the city has been in consultations with the Squamish Nation on the "right way" to remove the statue and "recognize the truth of John Deighton’s harmful legacy."
"Today’s actions were dangerous [and] undermines ongoing work with Squamish [Nation] to guide steps to reconciliation," he said.
In June 2020, the statue was defaced with red paint, which sparked a conversation about the controversial figure. According to a short film entitled "Red Women Rising" by the Battered Women's Support Services, Jack Deighton, known as "Gassy Jack," violated a 12-year-old Indigenous girl by taking her as his child bride. An online petition was started calling for the removal of Deighton's likeness that gained nearly 25,000 signatures.
Vancouver Police say they are investigating the incident but no one was injured and no arrests have been made.