The City of Pembroke, ON is reviewing a mural of St. Marguerite d’Youville, and whether it should be taken down in light of the ongoing findings of unmarked graves at residential school sites.
The mural titled “Marguerite d’Youville and Her Mission” is located at the corner of Church Street and Pembroke Street West in downtown Pembroke and depicts a pair of nuns beckoning out to an Indigenous child and was painted in 1992.
St. Marguerite d’Youville was born in Varennes, Quebec, in 1701 and is known as the founder of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, the “Grey Nuns.” She was known for caring for the poor and sick and had a sister community of grey nuns set up in Pembroke. Pope John Paul II canonized d’Youville in 1990, making her the first native-born Canadian to become a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. She died in 1771, about 100 years before the residential school system in Canada began.
The city says they seek feedback and recommendations from local Indigenous and community leaders on what to do with the mural. Mayor Michael LeMay added that it is crucial to be respectful of the concerns raised and the symbols the mural may represent.
Duane Gastant Aucoin, an Indigenous member of Pembroke’s diversity committee, said “To me, it’s offensive but not to the degree of the Algonquin people because of their relationship with the grey nuns. The Pikwakanagan people, whose land this is; whatever their wishes and regards to this mural, that’s what should be supported.”
In the meantime, red handprints and markings have been put on top of the mural.