Did you know the very first children’s hospital in Winnipeg was located on the grounds of the current Michaëlle Jean Park? I have driven through the park on my bicycle many times but yesterday I decided to stop and look around. The park is at 65 Granville Street.
I found this monument which marks the spot where the city’s first health care facility dedicated to children was opened in 1909.
In 1905, the Winnipeg health officer counted 513 infant deaths. One in every eight children born in the city died before their first birthday. The need for a children’s hospital was clear. Staffed largely by female volunteers the hospital outgrew its early quarters quickly and in 1911 a new Children’s Hospital was built on Aberdeen Avenue.
I also found this stone in the park placed in the memory of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, Men and Boys and members of the LGBTQ community. The memorial mentioned a bur oak tree but I couldn’t find it. There were pines, cedars, and cottonwoods nearby but no oak. I wanted to know what had happened to the tree.
This art piece is another feature of the park. It was created by Becky Thiessen and Gabrielle Funk as part of an art project sponsored by the Norquay Community Club. I was curious how old the girls were when they made the mural and how old they are now. Do they ever return to visit their colourful artwork?
There’s some colourful artwork as well on this concession stand. An elderly gentleman who looked somewhat disorientated was seated at the picnic table you can see here in the shade of the building. He took out his watch and asked me when the Victoria Day barbecue would start. I told him I was sure there wouldn’t be any activities in the park today because of the pandemic. He looked so disappointed!
The park is located right on the river and there are some beautiful views from its banks. I watched a pair of Canada geese swoop down for a spectacular noisy landing while I stood there.
Michaëlle Jean, the park’s namesake, was the Governor-General of Canada from 2005-2010. She was the first Haitian Canadian and Black person to hold the office.
What’s in a park? In the case of Winnipeg’s Michaëlle Jean Park all kinds of interesting things!