Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Death of Stefan Swyryda

One of the consequences of responsible government in the Canadas, 1848, was a legitimized and expanded system of revenue collection (basically, representation = taxation). And once of the consequences of that was a blossoming of public spending, notably on all the mid-Victorian courthouses, jails, city halls, concert halls, and other civic architecture that arose across what is now Ontario in the next couple of decades. In many Ontario towns and cities, the old jail or the old city hall has become a museum and heritage centre, still doing valuable work as public space in the heart of transformed cities.

One such place is Brampton, where the former Peel County Jail (built 1867) is now the Peel Heritage Centre. And today Peel Heritage salutes a macabre anniversary. One hundred years ago today, they had the first hanging on the grounds of what's now the heritage centre.

The centre is making more than a day of it. There is some suggestion that Stefan Swyryda, who was executed for murder on February 11, 1909, could have used some ancestral version of Aid-Wyk, AIDWC, the Association in Defence of the Wrongfully Convicted. Anyway, Kristine Marchese has written a play about the trial, . A Complex Verdict will be presented later this spring in the very room where the trial took place. Participatory possibilities: if your ancestor was on the jury, they'd like to hear from you.
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