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LETTER: Monuments of the past can be a 'source of deep pain'

Reader can't 'condone the re-erection of the Champlain Monument as long as those conditions that contribute to our national shame, continue'
champlain monument site july 15
This is the site where the Champlain Monument once stood. Local First Nations people have attached ribbons to the fence and, after a peaceful demonstration Canada Day, continue to visit the site to ensure their voice is heard about the statue's future. Dave Dawson/OrilliaMatters

OrilliaMatters welcomes letters to the editor. This letter, written by Brad Johnston, is in response to a letter, written by Bill Matz, titled, 'Return 'treasured landmark,' resident urges' published June 6.

I would like to take a moment to respond to Mr. Matz's comments regarding the treasured monument in Couchiching Park and that the idea that connecting residential schools with Champlain is unfair to the memory of Champlain.

First and foremost, Champlain was an agent of the French monarchy, and as such an agent of colonialism, whatever his personal disposition, his task was to tame and subjugate areas that he explored for France.That would include any Indigenous nations that he would encounter. 

It is completely appropriate to associate Champlain with colonialism and its negative impact on Indigenous nations, up to and including residential schools and current issues facing native communities in 2021, such as the boil-water advisory in many communities.

Monuments to the past can be a source of deep pain, and certainly ones that romanticize and glorify a system of oppression that still exist to this day is problematic at best. I truly believe that no one treasures what has transpired between 1615 and 2021 in regards to the relationships with the colonial powers, and the many Indigenous nations that were destroyed in a genocide.

I cannot in good conscience condone the re-erection of the Champlain Monument as long as those conditions that contribute to our national shame, continue.

Once every missing Indigenous woman is accounted for, every missing child from residential schools is found and identified, every Indigenous community has fresh, clean water, will I feel that the time will be appropriate for erecting monuments to our shared history.

Brad Johnston