08 September 2015

Geese desecrate Vancouver monument for massacred Montreal women

Vancouver’s park board is trying to do something about the geese in Thornton Park where a monument pays homage to the 14 women murdered at École Polytechnique.

Goose excrement has defiled a Vancouver monument dedicated to girls and women murdered around the world.
Courtesy of the Women’s Monument Committee
Goose excrement has defiled a Vancouver monument dedicated to girls and women murdered around the world.
Vancouver’s park board is considering action to deal with a flock of geese that is desecrating a monument honouring murdered girls and women around the world.

Two years ago, the geese moved to the grass by the monument at Thornton Park when their previous home near the Vancouver Pacific Central Station was developed into a parking lot. 

Ever since, they’ve been defecating on the 14 granite benches arranged in a circle bearing the names of the 14 women massacred at Montreal’s École Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989. The benches are also engraved with a message to murdered girls and women in seven languages.  

It’s especially alarming to see the excrement atop the benches in an indent designed to be a “pool of tears,” Elinor Warkentin, a volunteer on the Women’s Monument Committee, said Tuesday.

“It’s become really, really horrible,” Warkentin said, adding some people feed the geese so seagulls have also started frequenting the area and contributing to the problem.

“It might seem silly to think what does goose poop have to do with violence against women, but the space is public art, it’s a space to come together to mourn, to act,” she said. “We want it to be a healthy, welcoming, useable space.”
But until recently, the committee hasn’t been able to convince the park board to do anything about the geese because Canada geese fall under federal jurisdiction. Green Party commissioner Stuart Mackinnon, however, has taken up the cause and will present a motion at next Monday’s meeting asking staff to do something.

Apparently it’s hard to convince the federal government to move geese without extensive documentation on attempts to remove the geese, Mackinnon said. (The City of Victoria, for example, uses dogs to chase geese away.) The park board has cleaned up the monument before, but his motion will ask staff to develop a plan to permanently deal with the problem.

“This is not the only place in the city where we have issues with flocks of geese, but this is a very special place,” said Mackinnon, who was a student at Montreal’s Concordia University at the time of the massacre. “We would like to have that area remain respectful and open to the public at all times.”

In an emailed statement, director of parks Bill Harding said crews will clean the benches every two weeks until, or if, the geese migrate. They will also look at long-term solutions if directed by the park board.

The committee is thrilled to have Mackinnon’s support, Warkentin said, and hopes the city will restore the monument into a public space where people can gather and hold vigils.

“This is a centerpiece for activism against violence against women,” she said. “People come here to remember.”

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