Victoria’s streets and parks are dotted with fantastic sculptures. Some are artistic, others celebrate or remember times in history, while others still break world records! There are definitely a few that will catch your eye in the city. Check out this guide to find out some of the city’s favourites and what they mean.
Terry Fox is one of Canada’s most famous figures and is a national hero. After losing a leg to cancer in 1977, Terry Fox was determined to spread awareness about cancer and raise money towards finding a cure. He chose to do so by running across Canada in its entirety, one marathon a day. While his Marathon of Hope ended short, after running for 143 days and over 5,300km, Terry Fox reached his goal of raising $1 per Canadian for cancer. His cancer had spread to his lungs and he died in 1981. Since 2005, the Terry Fox Statue has stood on its corner near Beacon Hill Park, marking what would have been the finish line of the Marathon of Hope.
Close to the Terry Fox Statue, Mile 0 marks the starting point of the Trans Canada Highway, which spans 8,000 kilometers across the entire country. This also makes it the longest highway in the entire world. Despite being a very modest marker of simple brick and wood, it is a popular tourist stop-over while visiting Victoria’s waterfront and Beacon Hill Park.
Another famous sculpture that lies in Beacon Hill Park has claims as the Tallest Totem Pole in the world, the Spirit of Lekwammen. It was carved by the famous and talented Kwakwaka’wakw carver Mungo Martin. At the time of its installation in 1956, it was the tallest free-standing story pole in the world. It stands at about 39 meters high and looks out over the Juan de Fuca Strait. Through incredible efforts, the totem has been kept alive thanks to restorations and repainting, some of which involved removing the totem for an entire year while the fragile wood underwent restoration. It’s the exact same pole that has been in place for over sixty years.
Positioned in Clover Point, a stunning, ocean side park, the Millennium Peace Sculpture was gifted to the people of Victoria by Maarten Shaddelee, a talented local sculptor, and his wife. Crafted out of Vancouver Island marble, it depicts a Canadian maple leaf at its heart, with an eagle, dogwoods and an orca surrounding it. An ammonite shell on its back ties it together, representing and honoring shell life, which created the marble slab used for the sculpture millions of years ago. It is a unique sculpture tucked into a beautiful place and has been there since April 20, 2000.
One of Victoria’s most moving statues is the Homecoming Statue located on the Inner Harbour Causeway in downtown Victoria BC. Unveiled in 2010, the sculpture commemorates the centennial of the Canadian Navy. Crafted by Nathan Scott, it depicts a young girl and her running to the outstretched arms of her father, who was returning home from deployment. Beyond them is the ideal setting of the Inner Harbour, where the masts of sailboats and tallships rise up beyond the bronze figures. The base of the sculpture pays homeage to the ships in the Canadian Navy’s Pacific Fleet, depicting the crests of each of the ships. The humbling plaque next to the sculpture is well worth the read. On a nearby bench, a bronze veteran naval captain, representing John Mason, looks on at the heartwarming scene.
Another notable statue on the Inner Harbour of Victoria BC is that of Emily Carr, featured with her famous pet monkey, Woo, and her dog, Billie. She sits with her notepad and pencil at the ready. Unveiled during Women’s History Month in October 2010, Barbara Paterson sculpted the perfect memorial for one of Canada’s most significant artists and famous citizens. More than four-hundred people showed up for the unveiling, and “Our Emily” is one of the most celebrated of Victoria’s sculptures.
Located in Cattle Point of the Oak Bay District of Victoria, the “Roll of Honour” memorial depicts a woman embracing plaques listing the names of those who died from Oak Bay in WWII. The original 97 names were joined by bronze plaques laid on rocks in front of the sculpture to honour soldiers lost in WWI, the Korean war, and UN Peacekeepers and the Canadian Merchant Navy. While the original monument was unveiled on November 11, 1948, the last additions weren’t added until 2004. The serene sculpture was crafted of cement, and was repaired in 1980. Today, she humbly looks over the beautiful park and is a site of Remembrance Day Ceremonies every year.
Another Inner Harbour Sculpture is that of Captain James Cook in honour of the 200th anniversary of his third voyage’s departure date. The impressive figure stands with his back to the Inner Harbour and faces the Fairmont Empress hotel. It stood at its place from 1976 until 2016, when it was removed for refurbishment and replaced later that year. Paying a small visit to Captain Cook is easy when you’re already visiting the scenic harbour hub.
Located within a namesake park on Belleview Street is the bust of Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra. Quadra Park is a small emerald oasis on Belleville Street, just beside the Inner Harbour. Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra was a Spanish explorer who played an integral part in the founding of Vancouver Island. In fact, Vancouver Island was originally called The Island of Quadra and Vancouver, after the two captains who founded it. He was a major part of the 1790 Nootka Convention, which determined the division of Spain and Britain’s discovered Pacific North West. The humble bust makes for a quick historical stop in the quaint Quadra Park.
Perched on the lawns of the B.C. Legislative buildings is a statue of Her Majesty Queen Victoria. She towers above the lawns, looking out at her namesake city with the grace you sense she possessed during her rule. The statue, created by Allen Bruce Joy, was put in place in 1914, and has been there ever since. Queen Victoria is one of Victoria’s most prominent and famous sculptures thanks to her lofty location in the city.
Also located on the front lawns of the Legislative Buildings is a beautiful war memorial that takes the shape of a soldier, standing on a pedestal with his rifle in his hands. The memorial commemorates the soldiers from both of the world wars, as well as the Korean war. Standing in such a prominent place in Victoria’s bustling Inner Harbour, it prompts visitors and locals alike to take a moment to remember those who lost their lives in battle for Canada.
One of Victoria’s newest sculptures as of 2017, the Afghanistan Memorial is just around the corner from Christ Church Cathedral on Courtney Street. Based off of a photograph of a Canadian soldier taking the hand of an Afghan child, the image is carved into granite with an inscription on each side (in English and French). The monument base bears the names and dates of death for those of the Canadian Armed Forces and Public Service personnel who gave their lives.
Standing at the very top of the B.C. Legislative Buildings is a copper and gold-leafed statue of Captain George Vancouver, the first European to circumnavigate his namesake island. He mapped the west coast of British Columbia for two years, including each and every Gulf Island. Standing 7-ft tall and facing due North, you might almost miss him if you didn’t know to look up!
Located in Oak Bay overlooking the sea is an intricate and beautiful sculpture titled, “The Salish Sea.” It was crafted by Chris Paul, a Coast Salish artist and the detailed design is packed full of meaning and symbols. For passersby, the design, which becomes filled in by its ocean backdrop, depicts a traditional Thunderbird atop an orca. It was purchased by the city in 2014, and is one amongst a number of beautiful art installments in the area. In fact, Oak Bay has a self-guided sculpture tour, and the area allegedly has goals to become “the art capital of the capital city.”
All along the Salish Sea in Sidney, B.C. is the Sidney Sculpture walk, which makes for a fun, sunny afternoon. Each piece is done by a different artist and encapsulates a different meaning, or aspect of life, and life in British Columbia. Some pieces, commissioned by the city, will be there permanently, while others are for sale. Whether you’re heading to the Bevan Pier for some crab fishing, or a sunset, the sculptures prompt you to stop and enjoy the scenery, or make you smile from where you pass by.