A special working group has come up with a series of recommendations over Orillia’s Samuel de Champlain monument.
The statue came down in 2015, when Parks Canada raised concerns over the steps and plinth at the site. The monument was removed for recondition and restoration. The effort was put on hold after further concerns were raised about the cultural sensitivity of the monument, as it pertains to First Nations peoples.
A working group was stuck following a July 2018 council meeting, with aims to develop a plan for the monument and surrounding park lands that would present a balanced and respectful representation of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives. The working group included representatives of Parks Canada, the City of Orillia, the Chippewas of Rama First Nation, the Huron-Wendat Nation, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, and two citizens-at-large from the City of Orillia.
Following eight months of consultation, workshops, online feedback, and one-on-one meetings, the working group has made the following key recommendations:
- That the Samuel de Champlain Monument be re-installed with only the central figure of Samuel de Champlain atop the plinth and that this installation occur immediately.
- That the First Nations figures along with the figures of the Fur Trader and Missionary be the subject of further consultation with First Nations. It is the hope of the Samuel de Champlain Monument Working Group that future work, with the aim of re-imagining their presence in the immediate vicinity of the original Monument, will result in a meaningful and concrete example of Reconciliation.
- That the text of the original Monument’s “in-set plaque” be updated so that it will honour the original intent within the context of contemporary knowledge and wisdom.
- That additional interpretive signage/pieces be developed and created with the participation of First Nations representatives to tell a historically accurate story of Samuel de Champlain and his relationship with First Nations.
The report is available on the City of Orillia’s website at www.orillia.ca/champlain.
Banner photo courtesy City of Orillia