Municipal candidates share their position on cenotaph relocation

October 20, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

Mayor, deputy mayor and council candidates were recently asked by the Citizen what their position is on the relocation of the cenotaph at Alexandra Park, as recommended by consultants in the town’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan, presented on July 27, 2020.

The proposal was to move the cenotaph and other military memorials from Alexandra Park to an adjacent parcel of land on First Ave. to form a Cenotaph Park so a town plaza could be developed where it currently sits. The parcel of land is north of Alexandra Park.

At the time, the current council rejected the recommendation, and the Orangeville Legion Br. 233 has spoken out against such a move.

These are the council candidates’ responses:

Kim Reid, mayoral candidate

“No, I don’t think that the cenotaph should be moved. First and foremost, out of respect for our veterans. We can’t just keep moving it wherever it isn’t convenient for us. What happens down the road when we have moved it to a vacant piece of land and then we decide that it isn’t convenient anymore either, are we just going to keep moving it around? The property that it is on now has worked for us for the last 90 years. There is lots of room for everyone to attend the events throughout the year, whereas the other property is very limited,” said Reid.

“We need to look at the future and leaving it where it is just makes more sense long term. We need to show the respect that our veterans fought for with their lives and give the cenotaph the honour and respect that it deserves.”

Lisa Post, mayoral candidate

“I am vehemently opposed to relocating the cenotaph and other military monuments to the parcel of land on First Ave. It is critical that we support our veterans and other Legion members’ wishes on this topic. When this idea first surfaced, I reached out to one of my Legion mentors, Rose Elsdon, for her perspective and was quickly educated with a history lesson that covered the importance of leaving the monuments as they are. I will continue to ensure that the wishes of the Legion are respected,” said Post.

Jeff Patterson, mayoral candidate

“The cenotaph should remain in Alexandra Park as this was the express reason for which the land was deeded to the Town. I understand the Legion would consider relocating the cenotaph within the park. However, this would come with costs. Given other cost pressures like inflation, not a priority,” said Patterson.

“The site on First Avenue isn’t suitable to accommodate the cenotaph as it’s too small. Considerable space is required around the cenotaph for special services. As for more green space or a public square in the downtown core, I would be supportive provided a proposal emerged that had community support and there were adequate funds in the capital budget to cover the cost. Community consultation would be needed.”

Jeremy Williams, mayoral candidate

Williams said, “I first proposed making a true town square in 2016. Although I’m glad the current council’s consultants agree with me, my plans never included pushing the cenotaph off to the side. It was always to be a focal point and deserves to be in a central location in our town. If the Legion wanted it moved, I would support them. If the Legion wanted a second cenotaph, or a third, or fourth, I’d support that too. I have always supported the Legion, by action and by donation.”

He added, “Short answer, no, the cenotaph should stay exactly where the Legion wants it and we should treat it as the sacred monument it is.”

Todd Taylor, deputy mayor candidate

“The idea of a large-scale park downtown is appealing to me. Many great towns have parkland downtown – I would love it if Orangeville had one too,” said Taylor.

“Whatever is eventually done downtown needs to be wonderful, affordable, and have the full consultation of the Orangeville Legion and its members. Concerns about respect for the monument, enough space to hold Remembrance Day ceremonies, and accessibility would all have to answered. Until then, my answer on moving the monument is no.”

Trevor Castiglione, deputy mayor candidate

“The cenotaph behind Town Hall in Alexandra Park serves as gathering place for ceremonies on Remembrance Day, and for other remembrance milestones throughout the year. It is an important symbol of our commitment to honoring and remembering the sacrifices of so many for us all. I was angered about the news of the possible move of the cenotaph. Talk of moving this sacred site to a less prominent location where it will be forgotten and not have the room to accommodate gatherings because of limited viewing room and space in general is disgusting,” said Castiglione.

“My question is to all that wish to move the cenotaph, what or where did you serve that would give you the right to decide the fate of a memorial built for and by veterans? I don’t know what the future entails for the cenotaph but I for one will fight to the best of my abilities not to move it.”

Nick Garisto, councillor candidate

“I do not support the cenotaph being relocated as it was mentioned, it has been in that area for over 90 years and it is a piece of history here in Orangeville. I do support the veterans and local Legion on this issue as I have had a chance to speak with them personally,” said Garisto.

Ximena Butko, councillor candidate

“War memorials are hugely important, as a unique part of our heritage and a reminder of some of the most important events in our past. War memorials are extremely emotive objects and, as a result, the issue of their relocation can be controversial and needs to be handled sensitively,” Butko noted.

“That said, understanding the needs of our growing community and appreciating the opportunity to redevelop this space into a permanent establishment that could be used all year for multiple purposes, I would support the relocation of this war memorial from its current position to a space where there can be better awareness and proper accessibility to the public for commemoration.”

Tess Prendergast, councillor candidate

“Alexandra Park and Orangeville’s cenotaph are synonymous. Wanting to gain perspective from the main stakeholder, I contacted Barry Kimber, president of the Orangeville Legion, to pose the same question. Our conversation solidified my position. I learned Alexandra Park was donated for the intended purpose of a war memorial,” said Prendergast. “Our Orangeville Veterans have almost a century of Remembrance Day memories linked with Alexandra Park – who are we to erase that?”

She noted that other options exist for community gathering spaces, such as repurposing town owned parking lots on Broadway.

“I have the utmost respect for service men and women. I have spent my life listening to stories of valor and service as the granddaughter of a World War Two D.E.M.S. merchant marine and a best friend to a Captain in the Canadian Military. I have an ingrained respect for our soldiers and the Canadian Army. My answer is a firm no,” Prendergast said.

Andy Macintosh, councillor candidate

“I would not be in favour of moving the cenotaph, I didn’t support this during my time in council, and I won’t support it in the future. This area is very important [to] not only our Legion members but also the citizens of our community,” said Macintosh. “The only possible way I would ever consider a request to move it is if the Legion came and asked us, and I don’t believe that will happen. The town needs this area as a place to show their respect for the people that fought and paid the ultimate price for our freedom, I also do not believe this should be a political issue, it must stay where it is.”

Debbie Sherwood, councillor candidate

Sherwood said, “The vision in the Recreation and Parks Master plan is for a proposed Cenotaph Park located on land owned by the town on First Ave., north of Alexandra Park. The concept would be to act as a quiet and contemplative space for the cenotaph, veterans memorial and other memorial artifacts. A space designed for ceremony and reflection and would be connected to Alexandra Park Event space. For me, the approval of this park should be only done in consultation with the Orangeville Legion. If the Legion is in agreement to moving the cenotaph to this dedicated space, then I would be in full support. If they don’t want the cenotaph moved, I will vote for it to remain on the hallowed ground it currently resides on in Alexandra Park.”

Peggy Bond, councillor candidate

“My answer is no, I would not move the cenotaph,” Bond said. “Cenotaphs are important symbols for Canadians to gather at in their communities to honour and remember the sacrifices of our Canadian Armed Forces, RCMP, peacekeepers, and their families. Our current freedoms, democracy and way of life would not be possible without their service and selflessness. So, due to that fact I think it is in the perfect spot; Right next to the seat of our local democracy – Orangeville Town Hall and Council Chambers. The cenotaph is a daily reminder to our elected officials that their sacrifice means we live in a free and democratic nation and to honour that legacy in the policies and laws they make.”

Joe Andrews, councillor candidate

No. As a sitting member of Council this term, the recommendation was presented looking at the current and future growth of our community, factoring the importance of Alexandra Park as a central green-space destination. I was intrigued by the ideas and visual renderings as part of the Parks and Rec Master Plan, yet I personally wasn’t fully convinced that moving the cenotaph was necessary,” said Andrews. “With the utmost respect to the Legion and the other military memorials on-site, I believe there is a way to address in unison the revitalized Alexandra Park redesign and required AODA retrofits with the current location of the cenotaph. Doing so will ensure an outcome that will be accepted by all parties involved.”

Grant Spence, councillor candidate

“At the moment, this space is not utilized to its fullest potential. We need to consider that there are not many areas in our downtown core that provide an opportunity for development, which is essential to meet the increasing demands of the community,” said Spence. “Our farmers market does not have a permanent dedicated home and this would be an option for it. While the Town recently hosted a successful free concert in September, we do not have any outdoor space for live music and the performing arts, set in the town’s centre, aside from Blues/Jazz fest utilizing this very space. Development of this area could provide that opportunity and make the town more attractive for both local and international talent to be drawn to Orangeville,” said Spence.

James Jackson, councillor candidate

“Let me put it to you this way, not on my watch. To me it is beyond disrespectful, it would be like moving a cemetery, you just don’t do it. That is opening the door wide open for karma. The names on our cenotaph and others died so that we can enjoy the freedoms we do now and moving them for someone’s idea to do what again is completely out of order and will never get my vote,” said Jackson.

Rick Stevens, councillor candidate

“I would vote ‘no’ to moving the cenotaph,” said Stevens. “It would remain in Alexander Park untouched, the land was donated years ago for this reason and the cenotaph is a great way for everyone to ‘remember’ and know what it means for those that fought for our freedom.”

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