It’s better to get it right than to get it fast.
That’s how Mayor Steve Clarke feels about the Champlain Monument after Parks Canada informed city council it was putting the monument restoration project “on hold … until further consultation can occur regarding an appropriate path forward.”
Consultation among the city and First Nations has been happening for about a year, but it doesn’t hurt to gather more thoughts and opinions, Clarke said.
“I don’t know if the length of the conversation is the key point here. The quality of the conversation is,” he said. “There are different stakeholders involved, each with a significant say in what should happen at the park.”
The monument, created by Vernon March to mark the anniversary of French explorer Samuel de Champlain’s arrival in the area, was unveiled in Couchiching Beach Park in July 1925. It was removed last year so Parks Canada could address structural issues with the steps and the base.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, including retired teacher Mike Shillolo, saw it as a teachable moment, and the organization agreed to fund “an alternative art project in the vicinity of the current Champlain Monument in Orillia to address the bias and insensitivity of the current monument and to demonstrate our support for the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” according to a report from its meeting last August.
Clarke feels an additional component as an educational piece isn’t a bad thing.
“I’ll commend anybody who is being sensitive to the needs of any stakeholders,” he said. “As much as some people may be aware of (the Huron-Wendat) impact in the area, many do not.”
Asked if he was surprised to receive the letter from Parks Canada, stating it had put the project on hold, Clarke said, “not necessarily.”
“My understanding was that they were bringing it back, but it’s not a really big surprise.”
Parks Canada has suggested the city form a "joint committee, consisting of members from both of our organizations and other key partners and stakeholders, to pursue consultations and to develop a plan for both the Champlain Monument and the surrounding park lands, including possible education or art installations, for the summer of 2019."
Clarke expects such a committee will be established.
Parks Canada has not yet responded to questions posed by OrilliaMatters.