Social media has revealed strong opposition to a proposal to remove a century old plaque from LaSalle Park.
The Burlington Heritage Committee recently heard that the plaque would be removed, after consultation with Hamilton which still owns the park, because of a complaint from a member of the public. The plaque commemorates the 1669 landing of Sieur de La Salle and refers to him as “The First White Man To Set Foot On These Shores”.
There have been over a hundred comments on several Facebook sites with almost all opposed to the removal.
The Heritage Committee asked City staff to consult further with the Burlington Inclusivity Advisory Committee before acting, but that Committee is not meeting currently because of COVID.
Aldershot City Councillor Kelvin Galbraith welcomed all the social media input saying “I can now get a good vibe on the public feedback”.
He added that whatever the final decision, the plaque itself must be saved. “I would not want to see this plaque destroyed or placed in a box somewhere. I think it is reflective of the times that it was made and our story of the park’s origins”.
In nearby Waterdown, the issue struck a nerve. Many of the comments opposed to the removal came from that community. According to one Facebook post; “I reposted this on Waterdown Memories (Facebook site). It has caused a bit of a stir with lots of people. If the City of Burlington does take it down, we want it back, considering it was put there by the Wentworth Historical Society. I really hope they reconsider”, wrote Carl Parks.
Lynn Lunstead, the volunteer archivist at the Flamborough Archives and Heritage Society, echoed the concerns. She explained that it is natural for Waterdown residents to be interested in the issue since there is an historic link between Waterdown and Aldershot, both having been part of East Flamborough Township: “that area is part of the history of transportation. Goods went down through Brown’s wharf” (at LaSalle Park).
Lunstead added that the plaque should not be removed. “Our history is built in layers. If things happened at the time and that’s what people thought, that’s the way society was. If we go back with hindsight we’re removing what happened, whether it was right or wrong. You have to tell both sides of the story”.
Judi Partridge, the Hamilton City Councillor who represents Waterdown commented: “If it is the will of both cities to have the plaque removed, I would want to ensure the plague be returned to the “Flamborough Archives” for safe keeping as it is an important part of our history”.
While most social media posts focused on keeping the plaque where it is – “We learn from our history. We can’t change it” – others reflected on the larger issue.
“Removing this plaque will not honour the indigenous people. The removal will quietly eliminate any evidence of how we got it wrong for so long” posted Barbara Hiebert Simmons.
“The first white man to set foot on these shores – who helped kickstart the biggest blight in Canadian history that still continues to this day – the genocide of indigenous people cost to coast” said Jackson Thomas.
By Rick Craven