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Pincher Creek volunteer restoring vandalized plaques

Pincher Creek volunteer restoring vandalized plaques
“It gives us time for reflection on history and gives us a good sense of where we are and what went on in these areas,” says Edwin Knox.
“It gives us time for reflection on history and gives us a good sense of where we are and what went on in these areas,” says Edwin Knox.
IMAGE: Brenda Shenton
Edwin Knox of Pincher Creek speaks at a 2018 Talking Tombstones event at Waterton Lakes National Park.
IMAGE: Brenda Shenton
Edwin Knox of Pincher Creek speaks at a 2018 Talking Tombstones event at Waterton Lakes National Park.

Pincher Creek volunteer restoring vandalized plaques

By Justin Sibbet
By Justin Sibbet
Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Shootin’ the Breeze Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
June 16, 2024
June 16, 2024

A plaque commemorating a resident’s deeds from years past is now covered in scratches and graffiti — this is what is being fought by volunteers across the country.

The Parks Heritage Conservation Society is made up of more than 50 volunteers. Their goal is to clean, restore and inspect historic plaques in Canada.

Edwin Knox, a former long-time employee with Parks Canada, recently joined the Conservation Society to help maintain about 40 plaques in southern Alberta. This task sends the Pincher Creek resident to locations such as Waterton, Lethbridge and areas just south of Calgary.

He says it is an important job and he is happy to be involved.

“It’s a wonderful program from coast to coast to coast in Canada,” said Knox while at a recent plaque restoration workshop at Galt Gardens in Lethbridge.

 

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He says it gives residents and tourists an opportunity to learn about the events and people from the communities each plaque is located in.

“It gives us time for reflection on history and gives us a good sense of where we are and what went on in these areas,” says Knox.

Unfortunately, outright theft of the plaques is also an issue the society is currently dealing with, he says.

“It’s a very sad situation when you see that happen.”

Bob Weaver, vice-president of the Parks Heritage Conservation Society, says the problem is considerably worse in southern Alberta than the rest of Canada.

“A lot of monuments, especially in Calgary, are sitting vacant. It’s not a good situation,” Weaver says.

“So we’re glad to see this right here,” he adds, gesturing toward a plaque in Galt Gardens, “although it is vandalized.”

 

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For 22 years, Weaver has volunteered with the Conservation Society, and he says that in that time, vandalism has not significantly increased, providing a minor silver lining. However, he says the number of stolen plaques is increasing.

“It just seems to be in south-central Alberta. We haven’t really seen (thefts) in other areas,” says Weaver.

While stolen plaques cannot be restored, damaged and vandalized ones can be. Weaver says the amount of effort is quite considerable, when taking into account the workers are all unpaid volunteers.

“You’re probably on-site (working on a single plaque) for an hour and a half.”

According to estimates by Knox, three or four plaques can be completed in a single day, with a goal to return to each plaque every five years.

A certain level of vandalism and theft is believed to be motivated by a disdain for the wording of older plaques. Matt Nodge, partnering, engagement and communications officer with Parks Canada’s Waterton Lakes field unit, says the history portrayed on the plaques may not line up with popular modern ideologies, but they can still be important.

 

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“Commemoration is not necessarily celebration,” says Nodge. Plaques “identify the important points of Canadian history, pivotal moments, both negative and positive.”

He says the Historical Sites and Monuments Board of Canada ensures all cultural backgrounds are considered when approving new plaques or reviewing older ones.

“I’m very proud to work with Indigenous communities and Canadians of all backgrounds to commemorate our shared history,” says Nodge. 

He says there is currently a review of certain plaques across Canada, and that HSMBC “is looking at things like colonial assumptions, potentially harmful or hurtful problematic language.”

No matter the challenges facing the various organizations that work to keep Canada’s history alive, Weaver says he is happy to see them expanding into new provinces all the time.

 

 

 

 

A plaque commemorating a resident’s deeds from years past is now covered in scratches and graffiti — this is what is being fought by volunteers across the country.

The Parks Heritage Conservation Society is made up of more than 50 volunteers. Their goal is to clean, restore and inspect historic plaques in Canada.

Edwin Knox, a former long-time employee with Parks Canada, recently joined the Conservation Society to help maintain about 40 plaques in southern Alberta. This task sends the Pincher Creek resident to locations such as Waterton, Lethbridge and areas just south of Calgary.

He says it is an important job and he is happy to be involved.

“It’s a wonderful program from coast to coast to coast in Canada,” said Knox while at a recent plaque restoration workshop at Galt Gardens in Lethbridge.

 

Ad for Creekview Dental Hygiene clinic in Pincher Creek

 

He says it gives residents and tourists an opportunity to learn about the events and people from the communities each plaque is located in.

“It gives us time for reflection on history and gives us a good sense of where we are and what went on in these areas,” says Knox.

Unfortunately, outright theft of the plaques is also an issue the society is currently dealing with, he says.

“It’s a very sad situation when you see that happen.”

Bob Weaver, vice-president of the Parks Heritage Conservation Society, says the problem is considerably worse in southern Alberta than the rest of Canada.

“A lot of monuments, especially in Calgary, are sitting vacant. It’s not a good situation,” Weaver says.

“So we’re glad to see this right here,” he adds, gesturing toward a plaque in Galt Gardens, “although it is vandalized.”

 

 

For 22 years, Weaver has volunteered with the Conservation Society, and he says that in that time, vandalism has not significantly increased, providing a minor silver lining. However, he says the number of stolen plaques is increasing.

“It just seems to be in south-central Alberta. We haven’t really seen (thefts) in other areas,” says Weaver.

While stolen plaques cannot be restored, damaged and vandalized ones can be. Weaver says the amount of effort is quite considerable, when taking into account the workers are all unpaid volunteers.

“You’re probably on-site (working on a single plaque) for an hour and a half.”

According to estimates by Knox, three or four plaques can be completed in a single day, with a goal to return to each plaque every five years.

A certain level of vandalism and theft is believed to be motivated by a disdain for the wording of older plaques. Matt Nodge, partnering, engagement and communications officer with Parks Canada’s Waterton Lakes field unit, says the history portrayed on the plaques may not line up with popular modern ideologies, but they can still be important.

 

Pig roast at wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

“Commemoration is not necessarily celebration,” says Nodge. Plaques “identify the important points of Canadian history, pivotal moments, both negative and positive.”

He says the Historical Sites and Monuments Board of Canada ensures all cultural backgrounds are considered when approving new plaques or reviewing older ones.

“I’m very proud to work with Indigenous communities and Canadians of all backgrounds to commemorate our shared history,” says Nodge. 

He says there is currently a review of certain plaques across Canada, and that HSMBC “is looking at things like colonial assumptions, potentially harmful or hurtful problematic language.”

No matter the challenges facing the various organizations that work to keep Canada’s history alive, Weaver says he is happy to see them expanding into new provinces all the time.

 

 

 

 

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