Toronto, ON
Cawthra Square Toronto AIDS Memorial since 23 June 1993
2700 names
Pride Weekend Review
On Thursday evening I attended the Toronto AIDS Candlelight Vigil at the AIDS Memorial in Cawthra Square park, behind the 519 Community Centre. Comprised of concrete pillars lining an arc-shaped hillock, the memorial, built between 1992-1993, was designed by Patrick Fahn, and was the idea of activist Michael Lynch. By establishing a permanent memorial for victims of AIDS, Lynch hoped to provide a focal point for a community grieving in silence. He hoped that the memorial would help end the shame and stigma surrounding the life and death of people with HIV/AIDS. Although Lynch did not see the memorial completed, the Candlelight Vigil is a testament to the strength of his idea — each year during Pride people gather in front of the memorial to honour, remember, and celebrate those who have died of AIDS, and recognize people currently living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.
I have walked through the memorial before, taking stock of the names inscribed on the stainless steel plaques that are mounted to the concrete pillars, sad to know that more names will be added. The vigil made the importance of the site even more evident.
The ceremony was attended by different stripes of people covering the lawn in front of the memorial. There were songs and stories, somber messages and messages of hope. People representing different communities or demographics that have been affected by the illness — children, aboriginals, transgendered people, sex trade workers, homosexuals, and drug users, among others — conducted the candle lighting ceremony. Near the end of the vigil, when all our candles were lit, the audience was asked to name the names of the people they were celebrating. Names came from across the crowd, at levels of intensity that ranged from whispers to shouts. The names that will be inscribed on the memorial this year were also read aloud. Photo © Matthew Hague spacingtoronto

2 July 2008
Matthew Hague, Toronto