It has been almost 32 years since the creation of Toronto's Peace Garden at Nathan Phillips Square. The brainchild of local religious figure Father Massey Lombardi, the garden was conceived in response to the Art Eggleton administration's 1983 declaration of Toronto as a "nuclear-free zone". The Peace Garden was completed the following year, with its Flame of Peace lit by Pope John Paul II in September 1984, and an official opening attended by Queen Elizabeth II a few weeks after.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent end of the cold war era in the years that followed did little to detract from the Peace Garden's statement of peace, though years of wear and tear caught up with the space by the early 2000s. Since 2010, the Peace Garden has been undergoing a major overhaul as part of the greater Nathan Phillips Square revitalization, with the previous space demolished and replaced with a garden in a new location.
The new Peace Garden, located on the west side of the square, features two elevated planting areas landscaped with flowering trees and native plants. The eastern portion of the Peace Garden features terraced planters that also serve as seating and stairs leading to Nathan Phillips Square's elevated walkway.
The west side of the Peace Garden combines planters with a reflecting pool and the relocated pavilion from the garden's previous incarnation, accessed via a small granite bridge spanning the reflecting pool. The refurbished Flame of Peace sits just beyond the bridge at the north end of the pool.
Earlier today, Mayor John Tory was joined by Consul General of Japan Yasunori Nakayama, Hiroshima Peace Ambassador and bomb survivor Setsuko Thurlow, and Peace Garden founder Father Massey Lombardi to participate in a rededication ceremony for the rebuilt space. The event also featured a performance by the Jarvis Collegiate Institute choir, as well as remarks from Chair of the Toronto Interfaith Council Zul Kassamali, and Toronto Poet Laureate Anne Michaels, who also spoke on behalf of Parliamentary Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke.
"Nathan Phillips Square is where Torontonians and visitors from around the world gather to share memories, to protest, to mourn, and to celebrate community," said Mayor John Tory. “It’s wonderful to be here today to open The Peace Garden with so many members of Toronto’s faith communities. The Peace Garden will be a lasting symbol of the collaborative relationship between the many and diverse faiths in our city."
After a series of remarks, tribal elder Cat Crieger performed a traditional smudging ceremony that involved the burning of sage leaves, a form of ritual cleansing prominent in North American indigenous cultures.
Mayor Tory was then joined by Father Massey Lombardi, who participated in the 1984 lighting of the Flame of Peace with Pope John Paul II, for a ceremonial re-lighting of the flame.
The final step in the re-dedication involved Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow, who poured a jug of river water from Hiroshima into the Peace Garden's reflecting pool as a symbol of solidarity and peace.
You can learn more about the Nathan Phillips Square Revitalization by visiting our dataBase file for the project, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment using the space provided at the bottom of this page.
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