North Hatley marina aims for reconciliation through renovation
North Hatley marina operators, Steve Piercy and Josée Fontaine announced a plan on Wednesday to completely overhaul the space to create a gathering area for youth, First Nations, veterans, and the community as a whole. As a part of that announcement, a birch-bark canoe, used in the production of the 1991 film, Black Robe, was launched into the Massawippi River.
Greg Bishop, collaborator in the new vision of the marina, told The Record that the project is meant to be a step towards “reconciliation with our indigenous sisters and brothers” and that the canoe launch was the team’s way of honouring the indigenous peoples who were living in the area long before European settlers came into the picture.
“we are dropping a pebble in a pond—creating a ripple effect,” he said.
The plan for the reinvented marina involves building a two-story lodge-like building that will serve as a focal point for community gathering and support. He went on to say that the revitalization of the marina will “create a community focal point for fun, education, heritage, growth and healing that transcends cultural, linguistic, and any other barriers to love and unity.”
Bishop also noted that it is hoped the marina can build this new vision on a not-for-profit business model, with an eye to creating a safe environment for veterans of all sorts and survivors of PTSD where the focus will be on healing.
“The system is broken and does not provide much healing—just medication,” he said.
As of yet, there is no date for when construction will begin on the new Marina and no further details could be provided on the financing of the project.
When speaking before the launch of the canoe, Michael Page, the mayor of North Hatley mentioned that North Hatley takes a lot of pride in its marina.
“There are a lot of Hatleys in the area, but only North Hatley has a marina,” he said, adding that the day’s boat launch would “pay tribute to the ancestors when they hunted and fished in the area when it was just forests” and that he thinks “it can be more than just a marina.”
Lindsay Eberts, daughter of late movie producer, Jake Eberts, was present at the boat launch to see the continuation of the boat’s legacy as well as see her father’s legacy live on. Jake Eberts grew up in the area and produced four films based on indigenous stories. Two of which were made in the Eastern Townships.
As such, Lindsay went on to say that First Nations and friends are close and important to their family.
The marina will be renamed once renovated in collaboration with the residents of North Hatley.
A group of local youth were invited to be the lucky few that tested the integrity of the birch bark canoe on the water. Olivia Page, was one of what Bishop referred to as “stand-in Abenaki warriors”
“It was really cool to be sitting in a piece of history,” she said, although she added that some technical difficulties arose with the navigation of the canoe.
“We aren’t well versed in the sport of canoeing and we had some difficulties with the boat. That just made us appreciate the Abenaki culture even more though. It’s amazing how that was just a way of life for them and they’d ride for days and days with no problems.”
No representatives of the local Abenaki community were present for the announcement and launch, but the overall atmosphere among those present was one of communal hope for the village of North Hatley and the desire to engage in efforts of reconciliation and unity.
A group of five youth were chosen as the lucky ones to bring the birch bark canoe on the water.