The metal cross atop Mount Tzouhalem served for many years as both a popular destination for Duncan-area hikers and a landmark overlooking the seaside hamlet of Cowichan Bay.
Now that it is gone there is a variety of opinions circulating about what, if anything, should be done to replace it.
Despite the fact the cross was located on land privately owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the question is being posed to the municipality of North Cowichan, which has received a number of emails and letters on the issue since the cross was cut down by vandals in July. Some are calling for the cross to be replaced. Others are calling it an eyesore whose departure was long overdue.
One letter called the cross a “billboard for God” and the writer was sorry that it wasn’t responsibly removed many years ago for “the eyesore that it was”.
“While some may think it vandalism, I am very grateful to whomever it was who took care of it,” the letter said.
The white steel cross that has overlooked Cowichan from a cliff on the mountain since the late 1980s was removed by unknown individuals sometime in mid-July.
To date, no one has claimed responsibility, but discussion on social media raised the possibility that it was cut down in reaction to the discoveries earlier this summer of hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential school sites, including at Penelakut Island, off the coast of Chemainus.
Another letter to North Cowichan suggested involving the community by having people vote on what they would like to see replace the cross.
“Get local artists involved and have a winner top the mountain,” the letter said.
Another letter suggested that the cross be re-erected as an educational symbol damning a sad, ongoing chapter in the nation’s history.
At a council meeting in August, North Cowichan Coun. Kate Marsh said, while she is aware that the property where the cross stood is not municipal land, she would like to see something other than a cross placed there.
“Given the heartbreaking grief our First Nations are going through right now, I think that any replacement, if there ever is to be one, ought to be symbolic of a future together and united rather than a reminder of a torturous and unequal past,” she said.
“I want to head off any motion to place another cross up there. I certainly wouldn’t vote for it because I believe it would cause some among our First Nations more heartache.”
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