City apologizes for role in decades-old tragedy

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Before any discussion took place, City councillors and those watching were told a story of a tragedy, one that the City could possibly have prevented.

To tell the story, Ken Crossman came before council. Ken, a surviving member of the family, explained what happened on that day, so long ago.

According to Crossman, in 1956 the City purchased the property where Snowden Park now sits.

In that time, the property was home to a pond, with no fencing, where the City originally dumped garbage and waste, trucked in from the city incinerator.  In those days, the incinerator which was located on Wellington Street East.

In 1958, then councillor McIntyre spoke up about the safety concerns for people who lived in the area, as children would pass through the grounds to get to Anna McCrea Public School. According to Crossman, McIntyre was concerned about the possible liability this posed to the City.  He was ignored.

Crossman told council that his family, at the time, lived across the street, on Shannon Road, and then related what happened, just a couple of years later.

“On Saturday, February 27, 1960, my two brothers, Robert and Gerald, ages eight and 10, respectively, were playing by the pond. Robert slipped down the 15-20 foot embankment and fell into the sewage/garbage filled, icy water. Gerald tried to help his brother and he fell in as well. Both called out for help,” said Crossman.

“Four young girls from the Shingwauk Indian Residential School heard their cries. One helped Robert grab a floating board while another went to a neighboring house, to get help. The fire department responded and they were able to get Robert out of the pond and we were able to revive him.  Unfortunately Gerald had gone under and could not be seen.”

Crossman continued to tell council about how the police diver spent 1.5 hours searching the pond before recovering his other brother. His father arrived on scene, just in time to watch the diver carry Gerald over his shoulder to shore, his father collapsed at the sight.

The tragedy had occurred on his father’s birthday, and his dad and Robert were never the same. Robert was never taken to hospital or looked at even though he was unconscious for a long time.  His dad, from that moment, started to drink and become abusive.

In the aftermath, the community raised money for the funeral for Robert.  The City never said a word.

In the 70’s, the family asked the City to erect a memorial, and were ignored by successive mayors and council members, according to Crossman.

In present time, when he was finished speaking, some of the councillors were visibly shaken by the story.

Council unanimously agreed to pass a motion to issue a letter of apology and to have Crossman work with the city and The Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association towards designing and placing a memorial at the park.

Full letter of apology to Ken Crossman.

 

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