One of Glengarry’s most distinctive, and oldest, landmarks is getting a major upgrade.
A letter from Hugh Ostrom, Parks Canada Superintendent of National Historic Sites, Georgian Bay and Ontario East, addressed to South Glengarry Mayor Ian McLeod – a copy of which was included in the agenda package for the Sept. 5 regular council meeting – states that the federal agency has earmarked $693,000 to stabilize the Glengarry Cairn.
Parks Canada – which declared the Cairn a National Historic Site in 1921 – is currently working through the contracting process for what Mr. Ostrom calls “the second phase of resource protection projects on the island in recent memory.”
In 2010, Parks Canada stabilized the shoreline of Cairn/Monument Island – located in the St. Lawrence River opposite South Lancaster – to protect against erosion.
The monument, described by Mr. Ostrom as “a cultural landmark of Scottish military heritage,” was built circa 1840/41 under the supervision of Lt.-Col. Lewis Carmichael, by the Glengarry Highlanders and Glengarry Militia, which had aided in the suppression of the Rebellions in Lower Canada (Quebec) in 1837 and 1838.
It was dedicated to Sir John Colborne – who was in charge of the military forces during those campaigns – the Glengarry Highlanders and Militia, and the 52nd Fraser Highlanders, which he commanded during the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
Mr. Colborne, who died in the U.K. in 1863, was also Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada from November 1828 to January 1836, and Governor-General in 1839.
Cairn Island has been off-limits to the public since 2009 when the discovery of bones led to claims of a sacred First Nations burial ground there, and a long-running land claim dispute involving local First Nations bands and Parks Canada has also prevented it from re-opening.
Despite the expenditure of nearly threequarters of a million dollars from the public purse to rehabilitate the Cairn, it won’t revert to its previous status anytime soon.
“Parks Canada has no plans to re-open the island to the public,” reiterated Mr. Ostrom.
“We recognize the long historical and cultural connection the Mohawks of Akwesasne have with the Cairn Island, or T si kat sin a kw a here. Parks Canada has entrusted the stewardship of the island to them for the past 20 years and will continue to do so.”
He adds that the federal department is “currently seeking other ways to help share the story of Glengarry Cairn National Historic Site and Cairn Island with local residents and visitors,” and “looks forward” to working with the township “on the future interpretation elements for the Cairn to ensure its stories are also preserved.”
Despite having been closed to the public for almost a decade, the Glengarry Cairn National Historical Site is included in the Canada
National Parks Discovery Pass 150 which allows holders unlimited free admission to all national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas operated by Parks Canada through the end of 2017.