Vimy Park is out – Parizeau is in

Vimy Park is out – Parizeau is in

By: Dan Laxer –

So that’s it, then? Parizeau Park’s a done deal? Vimy Park is out?

Haven’t we been down this road, no pun intended, before, when former Mayor Gerald Tremblay wanted to rechristen Park Avenue? Remember how that went? The Bourassa family shied away from the controversy then, just as Jacques Parizeau’s widow is now.

But the community isn’t taking this lying down… are they? I mean, this isn’t just ruffling feathers. This is picking larks out of the sky with a Colt–Browning M1895. Montreal City Council has voted overwhelmingly in favour or renaming Outremont’s Vimy Park after Jacques Parizeau. There were only two holdouts: the highly objectionable Jeremy Searle, and erstwhile skateboarder and graffiti artist Sterling Downey.

So, with that said, the city will be re-naming a park named for a battle waged by a fledgling nation, after a man who sought to tear that nation apart. And we’re supposed to be okay with this. Why? Because, as a Marvin Rotrand and Russell Copeman, and others, have argued, there are already enough things named for Vimy Ridge. And besides, as it turns out, Vimy Park, which has an honest-to-goodness sign hanging in it proclaiming it to be Vimy Park, has no official name. Did you know that? I didn’t know that. How is it that a park that has a name, a name that everyone recognizes, a name by which it is known, a name that is printed on a sign designating said park, actually doesn’t have a name at all, thus leaving it vulnerable to attack?

The French town of Vimy, and the adjacent ridge upon which one of the greatest World War One battles was waged, is rather unremarkable, and is famous only because of that battle. Had it never taken place, we would not be having this discussion, because there’d be no Vimy Park. Or indeed even a community to call that park their own. But it did. And there is.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge stands as one of the most heroic on several fronts. Perhaps even a turning point in the war. That history, unless we preserve it and pass it on, will be lost to the mists of time. France has not allowed that; the Canadian National Vimy Memorial is an honoured and protected installation, as it has been since it was unveiled eighty years ago.

But Montreal will be downgrading Vimy to a street or two here and there.

It doesn’t have to be this way. And it shouldn’t.

For the record, I am not against honouring the memory of M. Parizeau in some way. But surely there is another, nameless square, bridge, tunnel, or gazeebo that could stand for what he meant to this province.

The powers that be must have known how explosive this move would be. Or perhaps that was the point. This little episode has inspired me to learn what I can about the Battle of Vimy Ridge, and to pass it on to my children.

At this point, there seems little we can do to turn this around and change Council’s mind. Unless, perhaps, the Parizeau family steps in, just as the Bourassa family did to quell M. Tremblay’s Park Avenue misstep.

Until they do, and if Vimy Ridge means as much to us as we seem to feel it does, then we’ll have to find something else to mark its place.

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