The statue of British Col. Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres has been vandalized in downtown Sydney.
The statue, located in DesBarres Park at the corner of Dorchester Street and the Esplanade, could be seen Monday with red spray paint on DesBarres’ face and hands with the words “fake history” printed on the side.
The vandalism is believed to have happened at the location sometime between Friday and Monday morning.
Meanwhile, a group of Indigenous protesters gathered near the statue on Friday and Sunday to show their support for First Nations fishermen in the wake of events transpiring between commercial and First Nations fishermen in southwest Nova Scotia.
“I started the protest because of the RCMP not taking action on what’s happening,” said Seth Johnson. “It was making me angry and frustrated because I wasn’t there to stand with my people.”
Roughly seven to eight people attended Friday’s protest. Cape Breton Regional Police were on scene briefly, however, protesters were allowed to continue.
A second protest was held on Sunday and featured between 20 to 30 people, many with drums, signs, banners and flags.
Johnson told the Cape Breton Post the protests were peaceful.
“We had a few bad apples passing by sticking (up) the middle finger, but we had way more people supporting and beeping as they drove by,” said Johnson. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of people who showed up.”
It’s unknown whether or not protesters were involved in the vandalism. The person responsible or reason for it was unknown at press time.
District 5 councillor Eldon MacDonald, whose area includes the site of the DesBarres statue, wasn’t aware of the vandalism Monday afternoon.
“I can’t speak to what happened down at the DesBarres corner because I don’t know what took place or why it took place or who did it,” said MacDonald. “I know no knowledge to speak directly to it.”
The Post contacted the Cape Breton Regional Police regarding a possible investigation into the vandalism. Spokesperson Desiree Magnus could not be reached for comment.
The DesBarres statue was created by Carl Cann and was erected in 1985 through several different groups. A street is named after DesBarres near Victoria Park in Sydney.
DesBarres, who was born in 1721, was a cartographer who served in the Seven Years’ War as the aide-de-camp to General James Wolfe.
In his early years, DesBarres enrolled in the Royal Military Academy and trained to become a military officer, while studying military surveying.
DesBarres left Europe in 1756 and sailed to North America and was with Edward Boscawen’s fleet when it attacked the Fortress of Louisbourg in 1758. He captured a French entrenchment at Kennington Cove.
To accommodate the soon arrival of the United Empire Loyalists, Cape Breton became a separate colony from Nova Scotia and DesBarres served as the lieutenant-governor of Cape Breton from 1784-87.
During his time on the Island, he laid out the original plan of Sydney and is considered by many to be the founder of the city in 1785.
“He was a man who was around for a long time,” said Ken Donovan, member of the Old Sydney Society and retired Parks Canada historian. “He was a mathematician and a highly particular map-maker, so it’s because of that he got involved in government.”
DesBarres also created the four-volume Atlantic Neptune, which at the time was the most important collection of maps, charts and views of North America published in the 18th century.
He died in October 1824 at the age of 103. He’s buried with his wife in the crypt of St. George’s Round Church in Halifax.