The Gaskin Lion, the history and Ukrainian ties behind the iconic Kingston statue

Click to play video: 'Taking a closer at Ukrainian ties to a well known Kingston landmark'
Taking a closer at Ukrainian ties to a well known Kingston landmark
WATCH: In a new look for an old statue on Kingston's waterfront, the "Gaskin Lion" sports Ukrainian support – Apr 6, 2022

Anyone walking through Macdonald Park in Kingston, Ont., may have noticed some newly-added elements to the Gaskin Lion.

It appears to show support for Ukraine and what its people are going through.

A little extra colour has been added to the longstanding symbol of Kingston’s past. The Gaskin Lion is now sporting a bit of a different look with a fabric necklace of sunflowers.

Read more: Support for Ukraine comes in all forms in Kingston

“I’m delighted to learn of this. Sunflowers, of course, is the national flower of Ukraine, and for someone to spontaneously decorate the Gaskin Lion with a garland of sunflowers obviously shows that these people, whoever they were, stand with Ukraine,” said Lubomyr Luciuk, the president of the Ukrainian Club of Kingston.

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“They’re standing for democracy and freedom and so I’m just absolutely delighted. I wish I knew who’d done it.”

Luciuk says the Gaskin Lion is a symbol of the British Empire.

“Mayor John Gaskin was an Orangeman, a Irish protestant, he was a man that had very strong views about Catholics and immigrants and so on and so forth. He put the lion there as a symbol of the British Empire,” Luciuk said.

Read more: Afghan refugee welcomes Ukrainians fleeing war

Luciuk says more recently the Gaskin Lion, which stands near the popular tourist draw the Murney Tower Museum, also has a Ukrainian connection.

After years of deterioration, the Ukrainian Canadian Club of Kingston breathed new life into the statue in 2010.

The restoration project also helped celebrate 100 years of Ukrainian settlement in Kingston.

“The Gaskin Lion for us represents Lviv, the capital city of Western Ukraine, which is named after the lion. So most Ukrainians in Canada up until the recent past came from Western Ukraine and so this would have been the national symbol,” said Luciuk.

The lion statue was donated to the city of Kingston by John Gaskin’s family in 1909 after his death the year before.


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