ORILLIA, ON (NEWS 1130) – A city in central Ontario is calling for the return of an iconic monument to explorer Samuel de Champlain that has divided the community, parts of which have been held in storage after the federal government received complaints about how it portrays Indigenous people.
Orillia city council voted last week to have the monument reconstructed in its original form, but accompanied by something that better reflects both its historical context and current sentiments toward reconciliation.
Orillia Mayor Steve Clarke says it would mark an opportunity to educate people about the country’s past – the great and the good, along with the bad and the ugly.
Dozens of people protested on Canada Day at the steps of where the monument stood until it was removed in 2017, calling its depictions of local Indigenous ancestors “racist.”
Huron-Wendat Nation Grand Chief Konrad Sioui, whose ancestors would have interacted with Champlain, says the French explorer’s time in what is now Canada was not good for his people.
Parks Canada, which owns the monument, had it torn down and its bronze statues refurbished with an original intent of reconstructing it after an assessment in 2015 determined its foundation and steps were crumbling.
However, the agency had second thoughts about the project after hearing complaints and taking into account the findings of the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission.