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Monetville community planning fundraiser to pay for vandalism of a beloved commemorative monument

It is believed a vehicle and chain were used to pull the large stone monument to the ground

A senseless act of vandalism to a large stone monument in Monetville has that community reeling but determined to repair the damage.

On November 8, Nipissing West OPP officers were called about major damage to a commemorative site on Highway 64.

"Sometime during the overnight hours of November 7 - November 8, a large stone monument at the site was pulled off its base," says Constable Phil Young. "It is believed a vehicle and chain were used to pull the large stone monument to the ground."

The monument is in honour of Cyrille Monette, after which Monetville is named. He was the area's first settler and mayor, and a friend of Louis Riel. The monument sits on the land originally homesteaded by Monette.

Heather Fryer is the treasurer for the West Nipissing Historical Society, the organization that erected this historical landmark, which has been nominated for a public history award from the Ontario Historical Society. Volunteers planned to order a park bench to be placed at the monument site, and have almost enough money to purchase one.

She says she has no idea why someone would do such a thing, but the attack on the monument has left people upset and dismayed and it is painful for her community to bear. This project was the fulfillment of three years of research and fundraising.

"It means a great deal to us. We're basically a village spread out along Highway 64. We don't have a central location like a park, so the main significance is that there are still a lot of descendants of Cyrille Monette who still live in Monetville and Noelville. It means a great deal to them. Some are in their eighties. For the community at large, it's a recognition of just who we are.

"This was a cruel act of vandalism on a meaningful historical marker. It was erected by the West Nipissing Historical Society in 2020 and sponsored by the Municipality of French River and supported by the Municipality of West Nipissing, the Monette Family, and the community at large."

Fryer says the community has a history of working together, a real spirit of looking out for one another, so she is optimistic funds will be raised for the repair.

"We fundraised to build a firehall and then a community centre. We have three local churches and a Woman's Institute that put on a Christmas dinner every year and brings our community together. We serve over 200 people.

"When someone gets ill in the community we often have a fundraising dinner to support them financially. We have a history of working together."

She describes the monument as a "unifying force" which boosts their sense of pride in the village by touching base with their origins. So the pain runs deep.

The unveiling ceremony was only last summer and despite COVID, over 80 people showed up to celebrate, about half of those Monette's descendants.

Repairs will have to wait till spring, and there is no estimate on how much the community will need to raise.

"The mason that built it has visited the site and feels it can be repaired but told the West Nipissing Historical Society that it will have to wait until better weather in the spring," sighs Fryer.

The plaque on the monument reads, "In recognition of his pioneer spirit, being the first settler in the area, in 1895. About 1858 he attended Petit Seminaire in Montreal, where he met Louis Riel. It is believed Cyrille went to Red River, Manitoba in 1868-69. To avoid notoriety he changed his name to Cyrille Monette, having been born Alexandre Boisvert of Longueuil, Quebec, May 04, 1840. The home of Cyrille and Odile (Bouin), located about 200 m south of here, became the first Post Office and held the first Mass in 1898. Cyrille was elected Mayor of the new colony of Martland Twp. in 1906 and also served on the School Board. He was instrumental in getting local townships surveyed, roads built and in 1909, the lowering of channels to give access to Baie des Chantiers (Shanty Bay). A dispute about the location of the first RC Church discouraged him and they moved west to Henribourg, Saskatchewan in 1910, where he died on March 18, 1912."

Anybody with information should immediately contact the OPP at 1-888-310-1122. Should you wish to remain anonymous, you may call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

"We've heard from so so many people that are very upset and hurt," says Fryer.

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Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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