Walkerton fountain a 'symbol of hope'

Governor General dedicates fountain monument in Walkerton to the victims of last year's tainted water tragedy.

Calling Walkerton's unbreakable spirit an inspiration to the entire country, Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson dedicated a memorial fountain Saturday to victims of the worst E. coli outbreak in Canadian history.

"We see you have put on a brave face, especially when heartache and pain are still so close, so widely felt," she told the crowd of about 1,000 gathered at the Walkerton Heritage Water Garden.

"Yet you are determined to look ahead to the future and we are, all of us, inspired by you," she added. "Walkerton may be a small community, but it's strong enough to lift a whole nation."

The Governor General brought a jug of water to pour into the fountain, taken from a source close to her official residence the Terry Fox Fountain in front of Rideau Hall.

"Water is a symbol of hope," Clarkson said. "And I have brought some water to all the people here in Walkerton and the surrounding communities that care about Walkerton."

She noted that the community created the symbol of healing and restoration, "despite the fact that you have endured a great tragedy and that what you believed in failed you."

Families then moved forward to the fountain and poured their own water into the swirling pool, including a three-year-old boy still seriously ill from the E. coli he swallowed just over a year ago. Doctors believe he may have to take medication for kidney problems the rest of his life.

Last spring, thousands of residents became ill after E. coli bacteria thought to be from cattle manure seeped into the water system. Seven people died.

"Water is about life itself. We are affected by drought, by floods by torrents," Clarkson told the crowd. "Water in all its form snow, sleet, hail, ice is central to us, to our culture, to our history. Water is at the core of our being."

The Governor General unveiled a plaque with words taken from a biblical passage. It reads: And you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not."