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Vancouver's Gassy Jack statue was torn down and the city is divided

Was Gassy Jack a "racist jerk" or a "Vancouver icon"?
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Demonstrators toppled a long-standing statue of Gassy Jack Deighton in Vancouver, BC's Gastown—but not everyone feels that it was the right thing to do.

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." 

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."

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.

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."

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. 

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.

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