Emily Murphy statue splashed with red paint, comes weeks after Churchill statue vandalized in same fashion

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The statue of Emily Murphy — one of the ‘Famous Five’ who in 1927 fought to have women declared as ‘persons’ — was found splashed with red paint Tuesday morning.

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The statue in Emily Murphy Park was discovered vandalized with red paint, the word ‘racist’ also written in red, Tuesday, weeks after the downtown statue of Sir Winston Churchill was slopped with red paint.

It was in August of 1927 that Emily Murphy invited four women — Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards — to her house in Garneau. There, they drafted and signed a letter to the governor general of Canada, asking the Supreme Court to rule on whether women could legally be appointed to the Canadian Senate.

The letter Murphy and her four colleagues prepared that August day in 1927 launched the Persons Case, the lawsuit that determined, once and for all, that women in Canada were “persons” under the law, with an equal right to hold political office.

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Murphy was a journalist, a novelist, a jurist, a mother, and a feminist crusader. But she was also racist, wanting to see Canada develop as a white, Anglo-Saxon country, and while she was sympathetic to the plight of Indigenous Canadians, she feared immigration was debasing the country.

In her writings, she attacked pretty much everyone: French-Canadians, Germans, Ukrainians, Jews, Greeks, as well as “Assyrians,” “Negroes,” “Chinamen” and “Hindus.”

“It sometimes seems as if the white race lacks both the physical and moral stamina to protect itself, and that maybe the black and yellow races may yet obtain the ascendancy,” she wrote.

Murphy was also a vocal proponent of the eugenics movement, and of Alberta’s Sexual Sterilization Act: “We protect the public against diseased and distempered cattle,” she wrote. “We should similarly protect them against the offal of humanity.”

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The Edmonton Arts Council, on June 17, was called in to help clean up the Churchill vandalism.

Churchill, who served as prime minister from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955, is seen as a national hero for his leadership during the Second World War but held many views that would be deemed racist.

Other statues of Churchill have been vandalized before, most notably the one in Parliament Square in London, which has been defaced several times.

Elisebeth Checkel, the president of the Sir Winston Churchill Society of Edmonton, said at the time Churchill has a complicated legacy and believes it is important to look at him in a balanced way.

“If we look at any historical figure, we will find the same thing,” Checkel said. “If we look at almost any person from the 1880s, we would find their views were if not repugnant to us nowadays, we would find they were disagreeable for sure. If you look at Churchill’s later actions and life as he grew, as we all hope to do, his views did change. The balance should be celebrated because without Churchill we would not even have the right to protest in this country.”

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In the wake of the Churchill vandalism, Mayor Don Iveson said in a statement that he welcomes healthy debate on legacies in society.

“I know historical monuments and sculptures, here and elsewhere, are at the heart of an emotional debate regarding what legacies and stories we venerate as a society,” he said last month. “The city welcomes healthy debate and discussion on issues of inclusiveness, and how we go about addressing historical wrongdoings and inequities like systemic racism.

“However, I believe there are more productive ways to move society along towards a more inclusive and uplifting future than vandalizing city property,” the mayor added.

Iveson said the city’s naming committee is currently reviewing and revising policy and a report is coming back to city council on Aug. 24.

— With files from Postmedia News

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