During the recent Labour Day weekend, a treasured Canadian relic was subjected to destructive and disrespectful acts of vandalism. The unfortunate incident unfolded at Bon Echo Provincial Park in Ontario, situated approximately 200 kilometres west of Ottawa, on the serene evening of September 2nd.
It was reported that the eminent Mazinaw Rock, a symbol of great cultural and spiritual significance for Indigenous people, had been marred by individuals inscribing their names near ancient Indigenous pictographs, quite possibly using a stone.
Authorities from Ontario Parks were alerted about this distasteful incidence of disrespect to the historic cliff face. It brought much disappointment to them as this majestic monument, embedded with over 260 Indigenous pictographs, is a sacred site of knowledge, ceremonial affairs, spiritualism and cultural identity.
Since 1982, Parks Canada has marked Mazinaw Rock as a historic site. Mazinaw, an Algonquin word for “picture” or “writing,” is home to the largest rock art site in the southern Canadian Shield and stands as the only major pictograph site in southern Ontario.
Occurrences of vandalism and graffiti at Bon Echo, though infrequent, are deeply disheartening every time they occur, lamented a representative from Ontario Parks. Disconcertingly, this act of defacement mirrors similar events worldwide. In recent memory, two tourists defaced the centuries-old Colosseum in Rome by etching their names into its structure, marking it as the second such incident within a span of two months. Additionally, Canadian authorities questioned a 17-year-old for allegedly desecrating the UNESCO-protected Toshodaiji Kondo temple in Nara, Japan.
In response, Ontario Parks stated that procedures, such as the application of biodegradable paint remover or the use of professional graffiti removal services, can be leveraged to non-invasively restore the rock face of Mazinaw.
Spurred by this incident, authorities said that staff at Bon Echo would redouble their efforts in promoting awareness and appreciation for the cultural value of the site. Park wardens continue to conduct regular enforcement patrols, offer education, and impose fines for provincial offences.
As part of their ongoing investigation to gather more details of the incident, the spokesperson expressed a commitment to a zero-tolerance approach towards such defilements, as they seek to safeguard the authenticity and integrity of Mazinaw Rock and Bon Echo Provincial Park.