Geese defiling memorial for women victimized by violence
A Vancouver memorial to honour women who have been victims of violence - specifically the 14 women killed at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique in 1989 - is being desecrated by a flock of Canada geese, leaving the city scrambling for a solution.
The memorial is located in Thornton Park, near the Canadian National Railway Station at Main Street and Terminal Avenue. A parking lot was built over a nearby watershed for geese in 2013, and the birds have been migrating over to the monument ever since.
Elinor Warkentin, a volunteer with the Women’s Monument Committee, says the beautiful design of the memorial is partially responsible for attracting the birds. The monument is comprised of 14 granite benches, all with a scar in the middle to collect rain water and symbolize a pool of tears.
“It’s a beautiful thought, beautiful symbolism, but the geese only see it as water,” says Warkentin. “The geese drink the water, and while they’re here they defecate all over the benches and the site of the monument, which makes it difficult for people to reflect and enjoy the space.”
Warkentin says the Women’s Monument Committee is currently working with the Vancouver Park Board to come up with a way to move the geese away from the monument.
“We want the park board staff to come up with a solution that’s humane [to the geese] and will honour the monument,” she says. “People come here to remember their sisters, their mothers, their aunts, women who have been murdered… and this is just not honouring the monument. It’s heartbreaking to see this.”
Park board commissioner Stuart MacKinnon says this is an issue that is very close to his heart. He was a student at Concordia University when the Montreal massacre occurred.
“It was quite an emotional time and event in Montreal, and I’ve carried that with me here,” he says. “I was very pleased to be able to help the committee.”
On Monday, commissioners will be voting on a motion for staff to come up with long-term solutions. One of the difficulties facing the board is that moving wildlife is under federal jurisdiction, MacKinnon adds, and a federal permit is needed.
“[The feds] won’t issue a permit to move wildlife until they’ve seen that you have tried various things,” he says. “So the park board needs to put together a plan of things we can do to dissuade the geese from being there. If none of those measures work, than we can apply to the federal government.”
In the meantime, crews will be cleaning the monument at least once every two weeks.
“This has become a focal point for memory, for remembering, and for action against violence against women,” says MacKinnon. “Keeping [the monument] in a form that’s clean and open to the public is very important to me, and I think also the other commissioners on the park board.”
With files from CTV Vancouver’s Scott Hurst