Tofino council approves temporary location for Weeping Cedar Woman

The Weeping Cedar Woman will officially be able to attend the 30th anniversary of the Meares Island Tribal Park designation.

Godfrey Stephens took just two weeks to carve the roughly 6.4 metre Weeping Cedar Woman statue that became an iconic figure in the 1984 Meares Island logging protest.

She has since moved to Victoria but a coalition of her supporters have been pushing for her return to Tofino not just for the 30th anniversary of the protest and subsequent Tribal Park designation but as a long-term piece of public art.

Her supporters have raised over 50 per cent of the $27,000 needed to secure the statue including acquisition and installation costs and the cost to bring her from Victoria to Tofino will tally about $1,500.

She is expected to arrive in Tofino on Wednesday.

Whether the statue will become a permanent piece of Tofino’s landscape is still up for debate as the district is working on a public consultation plan.

In order for her to attend April 20’s anniversary event, Tofino’s municipal council needed to approve a temporary location for her to stand outside the Tofino community hall.

During Tuesday’s regular meeting, council hashed out concerns over the definition of “temporary” and agreed to give their approval with several conditions attached.

These conditions included an Oct. 31 deadline for a permanent location to be agreed upon through the public consultation process and a $1,500 bond to be collected from the statue’s supporters to ensure the statue will be removed if public consultation calls for the statue’s eviction.

The Oct. 31 deadline was chosen to give the district enough time to conduct public consultations and to avoid handing the issue over to Tofino’s next council, which will be voted into office in November.

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

“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 council about the ambiguity of the word ‘temporary.’

“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 contravecy 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 spoke to the local efforts to bring the statue to Tofino.

“There’s been a lot of energy and effort by a number of people including people from the Tofino Arts Council and Tofino Clayoquot Heritage Society to bring this back,” she said.

“This is what we want people in the community to do; to work with council to bring forward ideas. We spent a lot of money doing the arts culture and heritage master plans and in those plans there’s definite direction to council about supporting these kinds of things.”

She suggested it would not be Tofino’s first controversial structure placed on public land.

 â€œSome 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 MacPherson 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,” he said.

Coun. Al Anderson was impressed with the amount of money the statue’s supporters were able to raise in a short amount of time.

 â€œI think it took much longer to raise $15,000 for the (Tuff City) Skate Park than it took to raise money for this,” he said. “Despite the fact that there’s some people that don’t support (the statue) in the community, there’s obviously strong and demonstrated-with-cash support for it.”

Mayo Josie Osborne echoed Anderson’s accolades.  

“I want to acknowledge the significant work that this group of people has done and that they have raised all of this money, independent of any tax money. All of the work has been done by them to date,” she said.

She noted that having the statue standing 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 long-term home.

McMaster asked about liability implications and district CAO Bob MacPherson responded 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.

 â€œI 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