NDP Heritage Critic Visits London

LONDON--Pierre Nantel, Member of Parliament for Longueuil-Pierre-Boucher, joined Irene on Friday, January 10 to explore a day's tour of London's historic heritage institutions.

The tour began with a visit to Fanshawe Pioneer Village, where hundreds of artifacts and memorabilia from the 17th to 20th centuries were preserved and stored in the facility's dust-free, temperature-controlled archives. Not afraid of the cold and snow, the MPs also took a winter walk through the village, including a stop at the General Store.

Following this visit, Irene and Pierre joined the Canadian Air Force 427 Wing veterans at their headquarters, to discuss the efforts to establish the Spirit of Flight Aviation Museum. The Museum, currently in its first phase of development, will be run by the 427 Wing and will highlight generations of civilian and military history in southwestern Ontario, ranging as far back as 1862.

Deeply embedded within London's military history, the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum served as the next location for heritage exploration. Greeted by knowledgable curatorial staff, Irene and Pierre toured the building containing centuries of military literature and history, with artifacts ranging from artillery rifles and military medals to salvaged signs full of bullet holes from Canadian forces stationed in Afghanistan.

The next stop was in one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods to meet with leaders of the 200-year old Beth Emanuel Church. This historic organization began its roots as a chapel for escaped black slaves from the United States. Formerly called the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Beth Emanuel Church settled in London by 1869, and soon became the home for many fugitive African Americans escaping the brutality and violence of human slavery through the Underground Railroad. Over glasses of hot cinnamon tea, Irene and Pierre listened to and shared stories with Pastor Delta McNeish regarding the legacy of slavery in the U.S. and Canada, the present-day struggles of impoverished London communities and future goals for the Church as a heritage institution.

Presently, Beth Emanuel serves up to 200 individuals during their Thursday Community Meal nights, despite a congregation of 40 members. A clothing exchange program is also run by the Church. The Church relies on donations and fundraising initiatives to meet the growing food and clothing demands of their community members. These initiatives continued to provide for Londoners in need, in keeping with the church’s historic roots.

The final stop of the day was Museum London to visit with Director Brian Meehan, to tour the beautiful facility at the forks of the Thames River and discuss the economic benefits that investment in arts and culture create in a community (You can review the local Cultural Prosperity Plan at: http://www.london.ca/About-London/culture/Pages/London%27s-Cultural-Prosperity-Plan.aspx).

The day provided the Official Opposition’s Heritage Critic with a good overview of the rich cultural heritage of Southwestern Ontario and valuable input to consider in regard to Heritage Canada’s challenges and opportunities moving forward.

article and photos credit; Charlotte Yun, constituency volunteer