Town Receives Prestigious
Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage award
Voices of Freedom Park
The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake has been awarded the prestigious 2020 Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Conservation for its Voices of Freedom Interactive and Digital Park. The Park honours the stories of people of African descent, enslaved, Black Loyalists, freedom seekers, and free Blacks – all part of Niagara’s history, yet often untold. Representatives of the Voices of Freedom Park committee attended a ceremony at Queen’s Park in February to receive the award from the Lieutenant Governor.
Located at the corner of Regent and Johnson Streets in the heart of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Old Town, the Park occupies the former site of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Lawn Bowling Club. In 2014 the Town, inspired by the leadership of the Niagara Foundation, embarked on a journey to preserve the site for public use and cultural conservation. The concept for the Voices of Freedom Park was born.
A committee of the Town was formed to oversee the design, construction, and overall content provision of the Park. Landscape Architect Tom Ridout won the bid to design the foundation and layout of the Park and it was built by Dawland Farms & Landscaping (Niagara-on-the-Lake). Its unique sculptural art, steel and metal arches, and meditative paths, have created a mini oasis in the centre (usually) bustling Old Town.
However, the Park is more than just a physical park. It is a digital exhibition.
The interactive content is a minefield of research, application and historical documentation.
Under the leadership of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum, the Town formed an Education Committee to interpret local Black History, using the Park as a starting point. Natasha Henry, President of the Ontario Black History Society, oversaw the comprehensive research that was the basis for a multi-media application and education resource.
The entire program and content are accessible from anywhere in the world, using an easily downloadable app from Balado Discovery, found on the website
Visitors to the
website can download the app and hear ‘voices’ from the past, and the stories of struggle and resilience that characterized the Black experience here in Niagara. Written and created by local producer Barbara Worthy, these stories were recorded at Wow! Creative Studio in St. Catharines, and utilized the talents of Shaw actors with local singers and musicians.
Making these stories even more appealing is an accompanying walking tour of local historic sites that reflect the lives and impact of these early Black settlers here in Niagara.
Plus, the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum created a fully inclusive Ontario curriculum-based education program offering activity-based learning materials for Grades 3 – 12. During February and March 2020, a total of twenty workshops were presented at six local schools, in the Catholic, public and private systems.
The two years of planning and building the
Voices of Freedom Park
were overseen by the Town, with a dedicated group of passionate and visionary individuals. The committee included Honorary Chair, Wilma Morrison, well-known for her lifetime of work promoting and preserving Black History; Co-Chairs Lord Mayor Betty Disero and John Hawley; Donna Ford, Nicole Cripps, Paul Hancock, Denise Horne, Sarah Kaufman, Martin Mazza, Paul Shepherd, Alexis Spieldenner, Raymond Tung, Kevin Turcotte, Mario Vecchi, John Wiens, Tim Johnson, George Webber, Shawna Butts, Hillary Kerr, and Amy Klassen. And a special ‘thank you’ goes out to Nancy Butler and Michael Power for their book
Slavery and Freedom in Niagar
a, which formed the foundation of research for the entire project.
Said Lord Mayor Betty Disero, “On behalf of Town Council and the Staff of Niagara-on-the-Lake, I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to everyone involved.”
The Voices of Freedom Interactive and Digital Park offers the perfect remedy for these changing times. Download the app at
, to access all these stories, the guided walk, and masses of history. And just as important, take this opportunity to enjoy a walk in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Heritage District and Old Town, and explore this truly unique Park.