Statue finds temporary home

The Weeping Cedar Woman is officially standing in Tofino.

The iconic statue attended the anniversary of the Meares Island Tribal Park designation that she helped secure 30 years ago and she will remain in Tofino at least until Oct. 31.

Her supporters hope she is here to stay as a long-term piece of public art but whether the statue will become entrenched into Tofino’s landscape is still up for debate as Tofino’s council is working on a public consultation plan. In order for her to attend April 20’s anniversary event, council approved a temporary location for her to stand outside the Tofino community hall.

During last week’s regular meeting, concerns were raised over the definition of “temporary” but the approval was given with several conditions attached.

These conditions include an Oct. 31 deadline for a permanent location to be agreed upon and a $1,500 bond to be collected from the statue’s supporters to ensure she will be removed if public consultation calls for her eviction. The Oct. 31 deadline was chosen to avoid handing the issue over to Tofino’s next council, which will be voted into office in November.

Her supporters have raised over 50 per cent of the roughly $27,000 needed to acquire and install the statue in Tofino as well as the roughly $1,500 worth of travel costs to bring her from Victoria.

Coun. Ray Thorogood supported the statue’s attendance at the anniversary event but was opposed to her remaining on public land after the event.

“If the groups who are behind this issue wish to bring the statue to Tofino for this particular weekend ceremony that’s fine but then be prepared to pay the $1,500 to get it out of here again too, or take it to private property,” he said.

Coun. Garth Cameron cautioned the word ‘temporary’ can be ambiguous.

“All of us who’ve lived in Tofino for any length of time knows that temporary usually means anywhere between 1-20 years,” he said.

Coun. Duncan McMaster agreed and expressed concern over the statue’s arrival prior to public consultation and before a permanent location was agreed upon.

“When we first started discussing this I said, although I was in favour of this statue returning to Tofino, I didn’t want it to come until we decided where it was going to go,” he said. “There’s still a lot of contraversy and I think we need to decide where this statue is going to be other than bringing it here on a temporary thing which could be 50 years.”

Coun. Dorothy Baert supported the Weeping Cedar Woman’s return and suggested it would not be Tofino’s first controversial structure placed on public land.

“Some could argue that the Tonquin Anchor was controversial too,” she said.

She quieted her fellow councillors’ concerns over the ambiguous definition of “temporary” by suggesting the Oct. 31 deadline and $1,500 bond that council ultimately agreed to.

McMaster asked whether $1,500 would be enough to remove the statue and district CAO Bob Mac-Pherson assured that it would.

“What would be required on our part would be some crane and truck time and I’m comfortable that $1,500 would do that,” Mac-Pherson said.

Mayor Josie Osborne said having the statue in Tofino would give locals a chance to look it over before participating in the public consultation process that will determine whether Tofino becomes the Weeping Cedar Woman’s longterm home.

McMaster asked about liability implications; district CAO Bob MacPherson said the district is double-checking its liability coverage.

Thorogood asked what would be required of the district’s public works crew to install the statue and MacPherson responded that three temporary curbs will need to be removed from the community hall site and this should only take about 30 minutes of staff time.

Council approved the temporary location with Thorogood the only vote in opposition. During the meeting’s open question period he said his vote was due, in part, to the statue not yet being fully paid for.

“I just was not in favour of it not being paid in full,” he said. “Ownership is going to be up in the air in my opinion, Godfrey (Stephens) is still the owner of the Weeping Cedar Woman.”

Tofino local Menno van Barneveld expressed disappointment in how council has handled the issue since the coalition of Weeping Cedar Woman supporters first came forward in January.

He spoke to past comments made by Coun. Cameron regarding the community-division the Weeping Cedar Woman represents and asked Cameron-who voted in favour of the statue’s temporary location-what had changed his opinion.

“I haven’t changed my point of view on the statue itself; it’s coming back whether I want it or not; that’s already done,” Cameron said. “I don’t want it to come back but it’s coming back so why not work with my council to make it happen?” reporter@westerlynews.ca