The towns most recent issue of OTR was our 2023 Year in Review. One article in the December issue that went to every mailbox in Stouffville has caught some attention from some residents about Council’s endorsement of the staff recommendation to relocate the cenotaph from the Stouffville Legion Branch #459 to Memorial Park. The relocation of the cenotaph also includes the acceptance of a decommissioned Leopard Tank from the Department of National Defense. Of concern to some residents is the location choice, the removal of the Canada 150 garden at the corner of Booth Dr and Park Drive and the inclusion of the Tank in the new memorial.
So how did we get here?
On September 13, 2023, Council received a deputation from Stouffville Legion Branch #459 Past-president, Murray Pattenden requesting the town relocate the cenotaph from the Legion to a location in Memorial Park. He also informed Council that the Town could be the recipient of a decommissioned Leopard Tank from the Department of National Defense. You can watch the delegation
here:https://play.champds.com/stouffvilleonca/event/96 Item 3.4
Something that impacted me when listening to Mr. Pattenden is that the town does not have a permanent memorial honouring our fallen war veterans. This is something that needs to be corrected. For many reasons, our cenotaph has moved around town over the years. It’s time to correct that. Also of note, in the deputation, it was highlighted that Memorial Park was named by Council of the day when in 1921 when Sir William Mullock and Sir Henry Pellet came to memorialize the residents who fought in WW1. This is important context for anyone who has moved to Stouffville in the last 50 years. My family moved here in 2006 and I never knew why our town park is called Memorial Park.
Council directed staff to come back with a report for council consideration on a location. This was all done in a public and transparent manner following our procedural bylaw. That report came back to council on December 6, 2023 meeting. The agenda was published to the public through various channels on November 30, 2023. Item 11.
https://whitchurch.civicweb.net/filepro/documents/167964/ ultimately contained 2 options in Memorial Park with staffs recommended site being the corner of Booth and Park Drives for the following reasons.
Option A (Recommended) – Located at the southeast corner of Booth Drive and Park Drive (see Attachment 1)
Benefits of this site include:
• Prominent and visible location for residents and visitors.
• Flexibility for expanding events and large crowds into the street intersection and adjacent park spaces.
• Additional amenity node for overall park and open space network.
Considerations for this site include:
• Proximity to roadway for large-scale events may require road closure.
• Requires relocation and adjustment to existing horticulture garden, trees and earthworks.
Option B – Located north of Burkholder Street and Park Drive (North Pavilion Site) (see Attachment 1)
Benefits of this site include:
• More intimate space and scale for reflection and contemplation.
• Closely integrated with adjacent park amenities. • In close proximity to shelter from elements.
Considerations for this site include:
• Location is not as prominent. • Limited site area for large events.
Staff are seeking Council authorization to return the cenotaph to Memorial Park, facilitate the receiving of the
tank, and determine a new location of the memorial space.
Council moved the recommended option A on consent as the report was not pulled by a member of council or public to discuss. This is common practice when Council has no concerns about staff recommendations.
A post was then made on Facebook on December 14 which is when emails started to arrive with upset residents about the location choice for the cenotaph, the inclusion of the tank and the lack of public consultation.
Public consultation on the Memorial Park Masterplan started back in 2019. Here is the link.
In the 2021 Year in Review OTR publication, Pages 22-23 highlighted possible changes to Memorial Park and the idea of the cenotaph moving is clearly contemplated.
While public consultation on the Memorial Park masterplan that contemplated a war memorial began in 2019, and the delegation from the Legion and staff report in 2023 were all part of the public processes, we fell very short in notifying the Stouffville Horticultural Society who have a vested interest in and care of the 150 garden currently located at Booth and Park Drives. That oversight was an error of omission, not commission that as Mayor, I take full responsibility for. Our new Director of Leisure and our Parks Manager would have had no idea that this garden had any significance to the town as our Canada 150 garden and to be honest, I completely forgot as well. I was the Ward 5 councillor in 2017 when this decision was made to fund the garden and that was also when we were dealing with some political challenges that thankfully are long behind us.
After council’s decision, and social media posts and emails began to come in highlighting the lack of consultation with the Stouffville Horticultural Society, I can tell you that before the Christmas break, town staff had a productive meeting with Stouffville Horticultural Society volunteers to explain their recommendation and made a commitment to continue to work with them moving forward.
While I am fully committed to relocating the cenotaph into a “once and for all” memorial within Memorial Park, I recognize that there should have been consultation with the Stouffville Horticultural Society specifically, and the broader community beyond just a council meeting. Again, for that I am sorry and the lesson has been learned by myself and staff. Moving forward, a similar occurrence will be avoided.
The Leopard Tank. The inclusion of the tank in the war memorial design has generated its own fair share of feedback from a number of residents. It is very rare for the Dept of National Defense to make such an offer to a municipality. This conversation goes back to when MPP Paul Calandra was our federal member of parliament. He made the initial inquiry as our MP more than 10 years ago and it was only recently we found out the Department of National Defense’s intent to donate a tank to Stouffville. While I can understand that decommissioned military equipment can be seen as instruments of war only, they are also part of our history that secured our national freedoms that we continue to enjoy today. Tanks in war memorials are not uncommon. Aurora, Angus, Barrie, Belleville, Bowmanville, Cambridge, Cobalt, Goderich, Heard, Hearst, Iroquois Falls, Kenora, Keswick, Lancaster, London, Madawaska, Meaford, Mount Forest, Oshawa are a few Ontario municipalities with a decommissioned tank or armoured military vehicle in their parks or war memorials.
A recent email from a Stouffville veteran stated. “I do understand that to some people a tank may symbolize war, but to people who understand the purpose of tanks and armed forces it is a very real symbol of PEACE MAKING and PEACE KEEPING…I also believe that it is very important to show our support to our armed forces, especially at this time when to most service members, most Canadians don’t know what the forces stand for. We, as a nation, have always been at the forefront of peace keeping. What most people don’t understand is that for peace keeping we are often involved in peace making. ”
There are obviously differing opinions about the inclusion of the tank in the cenotaph design which is specifically why I am making the following resolution at our Wed Jan 17th Council Meeting.
WHEREAS on December 6, 2023 Council passed a Resolution regarding the Cenotaph Relocation and Tank Donation;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council direct staff to undertake public consultation to obtain feedback with respect to the future design of Memorial Park as noted in the report.
I hope to have the support of my Council colleagues on this resolution and should my resolution be adopted, staff will take necessary steps for public consultation to begin.