Demonstrators toppled a long-standing statue of a controversial figure in Gastown—but not everyone feels that it was the right thing to do—or at least the right way to remove it.
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 during the 35th annual Women's Memorial March on Monday (Feb.14).
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.
But many people in the city have mixed feelings about more than just the way the statue was removed.
Local photographer Mark Teasdale took to Twitter to share an image of the superhero Deadpool standing on the podium where the statue had. He added that he thought it was "sad" that the figure toppled and asked what or who should replace the "icon"?
In a subtweet, Teasdale added that when the statue was there it provided an opportunity for hundreds of people to "shame him daily" and now that isn't possible.
"Reminders of the past help us not repeat past sins," he remarked.
Another individual commented that the way that the demonstrators went about removing the statue was wrong. They state that "good intentions are irrelevant" and "lawlessness to push an ideology is wrong." Drawing a comparison to the Ottawa "freedom" convoy, they state that there are "better ways."
Someone else added that the person who hung a flag on Terry Fox was demonized while the people who toppled Gassy Jack are characterized as "well-meaning activists."
Gathering a mob and illegally destroying property is wrong. Your good intentions are irrelevant. Lawlessness to push an ideology is wrong. Or have we learned nothing from the occupation of Ottawa? Condoning one, makes room for the other. There are better ways. #GassyJack— Tdottoasted (@tdottoasted) February 16, 2022
So these were “well meaning activists”, while whoever hung a flag on Terry Fox was a “desecrator”.— Wallace The Wookie (@wally_t_wookie) February 16, 2022
And, of course, numerous people agreed with the plan for the statue's removal that was already in place. Rina Liddle noted that "there will be charges laid."
The removal of Gassy Jack statue was already slated for removal. There will be charges laid, the police won’t have issues doing their job in this case, that’s for sure. I don’t know anyone on the left who will think otherwise.— Rina Liddle (@RinaLiddle) February 16, 2022
But many people felt that having a physical tribute to a man who took a child bride isn't something that should remain in place, regardless of the morality of the times.
Hugh Finnamore commented that the age of consent was indeed 12 at the time Deighton married the young Indigenous girl. However, it was changed to 14 a mere five years after his death.
"Why insist on judging 19th century mores by 21st century laws? Know your history and be willing to respectfully discuss it," they commented.
Gassy Jack died in 1875. He is reviled for having married a 12-year-old Squamish Nation girl. In 1890, the Canadian age of consent was raised from 12 to 14. Why insist on judging 19th century mores by 21st century laws? Know your history and be willing to respectfully discuss it.— Hugh Finnamore (@Hugh_Finnamore) February 16, 2022
Christina Gray shared an image of an Indigenous woman who went and stood where the statue formerly did. She wrote that the woman yelled: "All these Treaty rights and still not treated right."
I went down to pay my respects to #MMIWG2S in Vancouver. At the spot where the gassy Jack statue was removed today, an Indigenous woman climbed up and yelled: “All these Treaty rights and still not treated right”. Indigenous women are taking back this space. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/7EZ4H0okEN— Christina Gray (@stina_gray) February 15, 2022
One person noted that comparing this statue to others in the city is inappropriate since they perceive him to be a person of low morale. Another individual commented that the petition to remove the city went up at least two years ago but the city did nothing.
There was a petition to the city to remove this statue dated from at least 2 years ago. The city did nothing. Plus, what did Gassy Jack do to deserve a statue on an important square? He was a frigging saloon owner...No statue should have existed in the first place.— insciencewetrust (@___scientist___) February 16, 2022
Terry Fox was a hero, Gassy Jack was a racist jerk. Big difference.— Yaya360 (@Yaya3660) February 16, 2022
Even if we ignore that (which we shouldn't since we live now, not in 1890), what did Gassy Jack do for Canada or Vancouver to deserve a statue on an important square? He was a frigging saloon owner...His statue should not have existed in the first place.— insciencewetrust (@___scientist___) February 16, 2022
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.