Graffiti highlighting indigenous issues, history deleted by town; The skate park is a “legal place for self-expression and street art in the form of graffiti”
The City of Orillia is changing its approach to graffiti at Kiwanis Skate Park after being criticized for recently removing some of it.
References to colonialism, residential schools and other concerns about the history of Canada’s – and Orillia’s – relationship with Indigenous peoples had been painted on the surface of the skate park. Some have been repainted, including “The Shame of Orillia,” “Every Child Counts,” and a derogatory quote from Thomas G. Anderson, made to the indigenous people of this region in the mid-1800s.
Some wondered why these had been repainted when other more offensive graffiti remained.
“The Town of Orillia was receiving complaints about graffiti at Kiwanis Skateboard Park that were considered racist. At that point, staff were asked to paint some sections of the skateboard park graffiti, ”said Jennifer Ruff, City Manager. business development and communication.
The city will take a different approach now.
“After further review and discussion regarding Chapter 835 of the City of Orillia Municipal Code, which states that the skateboard park located at the Veterans Memorial Park is exempt from the graffiti removal rules , staff were urged not to remove graffiti unless it was considered obscene or indecent as directed in the policy, ”said Ruff.
Determining what is obscene and indecent “can be a challenge,” she said, as public opinion varies.
“From a city perspective, we consider the Veterans Park skateboard park to be a legal place for self-expression and street art in the form of graffiti,” he said. she declared. “Staff will continue to allow all forms of graffiti, but will monitor and review complaints received for items deemed obscene or indecent. “
Despite the removal of some graffiti, others were added over an even larger area of the skate park surface, including the words “Truth Comes Before Reconciliation”.
Orillia Mayor Steve Clarke said the city “is committed to finding meaningful ways in which we can support and lead truth and reconciliation efforts at the local level.”
“As a council, we have demonstrated our commitment to truth and reconciliation and will continue to do so in partnership with our neighbors in the Rama First Nation,” he said.
“An important part of truth and reconciliation efforts is learning and unlearning, and the way the city deals with graffiti at the skatepark is a good example of how we continue to listen and learn. “