A rally on Canada Day will draw attention to what the organizer is calling “a monument to genocide that has to go.”
That’s how Miranda Minassian referred to the Champlain Monument and it’s why she’s organizing the Decolonize Orillia rally.
“This is a symbol of white supremacy, in our park, and it needs to go,” she said.
The rally near the base of the monument at Couchiching Beach Park will begin at 3 p.m. July 1, not even a week after the base was vandalized with red paint.
Asked if the recent vandalism would affect the plans for the rally, Minassian said, “Absolutely not.”
“Society gets the kind of vandalism it deserves,” she said, quoting a work by British street artist Banksy. “People who are outraged more by the vandalism than the oppression of their neighbours need to take a hard look at themselves. As the monument is the physical embodiment of white supremacy, the spilling of that paint is the eruption of minorities being sick of it.”
Parks Canada removed the monument in 2017 for repairs and restoration. It recently provided the City of Orillia with an update on the planned return.
“Due to the restrictions put in place to help limit the spread of COVID-19, construction on the monument was halted,” reads the update on the city website. “Now that restrictions have eased, the contractor is scheduled to mobilize to the site starting in mid-July. The plinth will be installed first, followed by the statue of Samuel de Champlain, then landscaping, de-mobilization and clean-up. The entire process is scheduled to be completed by mid-August.”
The monument won’t exactly look the same when it returns. As stated on the city website, “The reimagining of the monument and its associated figures will provide much-needed context, detailing a richer story of Champlain's arrival in the area and his interactions with First Nations.”
Wednesday’s rally will include speakers, and Minassian said she plans to take a seat at a table and invite people to have discussions about the monument with her.
“Ultimately, my hope for this rally is to build a community for people to have open discussions about anti-racism and pro-diversity,” she said. “I want to give city council, Parks Canada and (Simcoe North MP) Bruce Stanton the chance to do the right thing. I want people to stand up and do the right thing.”
Since she began speaking publicly against the monument and its depictions of Indigenous peoples, Minassian said she has faced backlash. One person commented on Facebook, “Obviously your (sic) new to this town and can leave any time now if you don’t like it.” Minassian, who is of Armenian descent, took that as a racist comment.
“That is like a gut punch,” she said, noting she grew up in Orillia, was a reporter at the former daily paper, worked at local restaurants and volunteers in the community. “Hate sells, and I want to make it unpalatable.”
Anyone who wants to speak during the rally can email Minassian at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information about the rally can be found on its Facebook event page.
OrilliaMatters reached out to Parks Canada on Friday with questions regarding the recent vandalism and is still awaiting a response.
Orillia OPP said it is investigating the incident and encourages anyone with information to call 1-888-310-1122.