A downtown Orillia business has a prominent window display that features a Nazi flag, a bloodied mannequin, and carefully placed Tim Hortons cups.
The display is in the front window of Bowen Co. Antiques, located at 65 Mississaga St. W., at the western edge of the main street that doesn't see as much foot traffic as other areas of the downtown.
An Orillia woman, speaking anonymously due to concerns for her safety, contacted OrilliaMatters about the “ignorant” display.
“No one seems to really have noticed or done anything about it,” she said. “It’s just disrespectful. I mean … (the mannequin) is bloodied, and she’s using some sort of a canteen carrier with a Timmies cup, and then the Nazi flag is behind her.”
The resident said the display has been up for more than a month; she has reached out to a city councillor and to the Downtown Orillia Management Board about the display.
The display makes the community feel less safe, she said.
“It’s a very disrespectful and distasteful window display,” she said. “It feels ignorant, it feels unwelcome, and it makes our community seem and feel less safe.”
She said any dialogue the store owner may be attempting to start with the display will be lost through its brazen use of the Nazi flag and the mannequin, and that it could negatively impact tourist views of Orillia.
“If people want to have a conversation about violence against women, and antisemitism, then we can do that, but this is not that,” she said. “This is not starting any sort of interesting or helpful conversation on violence against women, the war effort, antisemitism.”
The business owner, Dan Bowen, said the display is not meant to propagate hatred or racism.
“It’s not meant to hurt anybody,” he told OrilliaMatters. “Everybody sees it different. We all see things different. It’s not my fault (if some see) it in a bad way.”
The display is meant to remind people of bad things taking place in the world, Bowen said.
“I stopped seeing World War 3 news on Facebook, and people stopped talking about it like it went away,” he said. “So, I thought, ‘What do I have kicking around the store that I can throw in the window to remind people that nothing’s gone away?’ It’s still here. There’s still bad news.
“There’s no hate whatsoever — it’s just peace. If people see it as hate, then I think they already got some hate going on.”
Though Bowen says the display is simply meant “to make people not forget and sweep things under the rug,” members of city council think it should be taken down.
“This is totally ridiculous to have something like this on the main street of Orillia,” said Coun. Ralph Cipolla, who owns a clothing store across the street. “It’s disgusting and it shouldn’t be allowed.”
Coun. Jay Fallis said the display is “absolutely despicable and it should be removed immediately.”
Shawn Crawford, the city’s manager of legislative services, said there are no bylaws regulating window displays, but he expects the display will soon come down.
“Staff have been made aware of the display at the business in the downtown. While the city’s sign bylaw does not regulate window displays, we recognize that there have been concerns expressed by members of the public,” he said in a statement to OrilliaMatters. “Staff have reached out to the business owner and property owner to advise them of the concerns and we anticipate the display will be removed soon.”
The OPP said officers have reached out to the business, but no criminal offence has been committed through the display.
“The Orillia detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police is aware of the display at a local business,” Const. Brett Boniface said in a statement.
“A member of the Community Mobilization Unit has engaged with the business owner, advising of complaints from members of the public and the associated community impact. We have also engaged with the City of Orillia regarding this matter. However, no criminal offence has been committed.”