There’s a new tree in Lytton Park and it’s there to remind Torontonians that Canada’s French heritage belongs to us all.
Representatives from all three levels of government, as well as French Consul General Jérôme Cauchard, gathered at the park on Oct. 29 as Toronto philanthropist Helen Vari dedicated a tree in tribute to Samuel De Champlain. The French explorer is widely regarded as the father of New France.
“Last year was a big celebration in Quebec,” Vari said, referring to the province’s 400th birthday. “But Canada is not only Quebec, and Champlain was not only Quebec, so it’s very important for us also to mark Champlain’s presence in Toronto.”
The idea of doing so first occurred to Vari in 2004, when she attended a Paris gala commemorating the 400th anniversary of Champlain’s landing in Canada, she said. Noticing there was a large contingent from Toronto, Vari made inquiries and discovered there was no tribute to Champlain in Toronto.
“You have to contribute with historical heritage,” she said. “You have to have memory. It’s very important.”
Attending politicians echoed the sentiment.
“We often think about city-building in terms of big projects, but it’s the smaller moments that really speak to the strength of our city,” said Ward 16 councillor Karen Stintz, who hosted the ceremony.
Eglinton-Lawrence MP Joe Volpe, and Toronto-Centre MPP George Smitherman also attended.
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