The Leaf Diversity Gardens have been drawing large crowds since opening late last year, but an absence of a monument of the Ten Commandments that once stood in the area has been raising questions from some.
The monument, which was donated to the Assiniboine Park Conservancy in 1965 by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, was removed from the area during the Leaf's construction. However, the monument was never returned to its original place, and the Conservancy had said it may not be coming back, citing a desire to provide a more inclusive and welcoming place for all people.
When asked about its delay in being returned to its space, a spokesperson with the Conservancy told the Winnipeg Free Press that there “were questions about whether the park is still the best location for this type of religious monument.” That was in June of 2022, and for a time it appeared there may be no hope of bringing it back.
“While the monument is part of Winnipeg’s history, our goal is to nurture a sense of community within our park that makes all feel welcome, accepted and comfortable to be themselves,” the spokesperson told the Free Press.
“We have considered this matter very carefully, in light of recent debate about historical monuments, and believe that reinstalling the monument may make the park feel less welcoming for some members of our community.”
Ed Hume, a retired school teacher and retired school board member of St. James-Assiniboia School Division, has been pressing the City to open a discussion and bring the monument back. He says while he understands not everyone may agree with a certain religion, allowing religious monuments to be displayed in public is a matter of religious liberty. He created a petition asking for the monument to be returned to the park, which has now gathered a total of almost 800 signatures online and on hard copies.
Public can now have say until Feb. 7
The Conservancy has since asked the Welcoming Winnipeg Initiative to take over a decision in the matter. The initiative is part of the City's commitment to reconciliation. Its website says the initiative "will help ensure that the contributions, experiences, and perspectives of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit are reflected truthfully in our stories, historical markers, and place names.
"All requests to create new, or make changes to, historical markers and place names now go through the Welcoming Winnipeg process, excluding street naming."
The Welcoming Winnipeg initiative is now welcoming residents to vote in an online survey to determine if the religious monument should be displayed publicly once again.
Corrections: A previous version mistakenly reported that Ed Hume was board member of Pembina Trails School Division. He is, in fact, a retired school board member of St. James-Assiniboia School Division.