A monument that celebrates the diversity of Brandon by highlighting the vibrant cultural mosaic of religions in the area has been refurbished and refreshed.
Alison Marshall, a Brandon University religion department professor, was on hand Thursday for the unveiling of the newly refurbished Labyrinth of Peace at the Brandon Riverbank Discovery Centre.
Marshall praised the centre for undertaking the major renovation so the monument in the western Manitoba city is “even better than it was before.”
At the heart of the labyrinth sits a stone with the outline of Manitoba carved in the centre and a symbol for wheat, representing the culture of western Manitoba.
It’s surrounded by 10 pillars, each emblazoned with the symbol of peace of a religion that’s present in the Brandon area.
The monument has been in place for more than 20 years to encourage religious tolerance, cultural awareness and peace, Marshall said.
Over the past two decades, it has faced some vandalism and weathering, she said, creating the need for a facelift.
The initial project 20 years ago was spearheaded by Brandon University students, Marshall said, including the current university archivist Christy Henry.
The monument was a collaborative process that involved Brandon University students and staff working with Indigenous, religious and newcomer communities. The project was led by Brandon University, with Brandon’s Rural Development Institute providing seed money through a community outreach program, Marshall said.
“We researched; we talked to the different communities to see how they would like to see themselves represented, what was their symbol for peace in their religion or culture,” Marshall said.
“We said ‘We’ll give you one stone for each community and we’ll arrange them.’ The students were given the task of researching the history, and all of these communities go back more than 100 years in the region.… They have deep roots, but we might not realize they have deep roots.”
The most challenging aspect of the initial project was finding land in town where they could place the monument. Eventually, it was placed in the northeast corner of the Riverbank Discovery Centre.
The monument is located near Kirkcaldy Heights School, Marshall said, in the hopes that schoolchildren and other youth in the Brandon School Division will be able to visit the site and see their traditions and cultures represented.
The newly refreshed site includes a large sign detailing the 10 different religions featured, along with other points of interest at the Riverbank Discovery Centre.
The fresh signage and overall new esthetic have given the Labyrinth of Peace a more prominent place in the city, Marshall said.
“It’s emotional for me, because this was always kind of a dream of mine.… It was a representation of religious diversity and culture,” Marshall said.
WATCH | The significance of Brandon’s Labyrinth of Peace monument:
“I came here and I thought, you know, we need to make this more prominent in the city.”
The Labyrinth of Peace is designed to capture a snapshot of religious life in the Prairies and the different forms it has taken since Brandon first became an entry point for new Canadians in the late 1800s.
The message of peace and tolerance remains essential because racism is still an issue, Marshall said. The monument brings people together and encourages them to practice anti-racism.
“This was everyone working together toward this common goal of acknowledging the importance of religious diversity, tolerance, and peace,” Marshall said.
She hopes families will visit and walk through, looking at the stones and symbols of peace that are shared across the globe.
Brandon Riverbank Discovery Centre general manager James Montgomery said he is grateful to the staff and students at Brandon University who got the project off the ground 20 years ago and contributed to the newly unveiled refurbishments.
He hopes people come down to have a look at the installation and how it reflects the diversity present in Brandon.
“I hope that they’ll recognize the fact that it’s important for us to respect people with different views,” Montgomery said. “We need that more than ever in the world today.”