Canadian Vickers Vedette

Monument Takes Flight

The monument is located at the town dock on Third Street in Lac du Bonnet.

Canadian Vickers Vedette Sculpture by Gordon Reeve

Canadian Vickers Vedette Sculpture by Gordon Reeve



Constructing the Vedette


Remembering the Vedette

Airplane replica to be placed at La Verendrye boat launch (Moved to the Town dock in 2023)

By Marc Zienkiewicz (Spring 2009 – Experience Lac du Bonnet)

Canadian Vickers VedetteA University of Manitoba professor and sculptor is set to begin building what could become a major tourist attraction in Lac du Bonnet. Gordon Reeve has been chosen by the Lac du Bonnet Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee (MHAC) to build a monument that will commemorate an historic aircraft that operated in the community in the early 20th century — the Vickers Vedette. Reeve is well-known in Manitoba for his sculpture Justice, which stands outside the Law Courts building in downtown Winnipeg. He also designed the public art project Agassiz Ice on the Portage Avenue side of the Assiniboine Park footbridge. He’s also dabbled in film, creating the 1992 documentary Moment of Light about ballerina Evelyn Hart. Reeve noted the site chosen for the monument — the La Verendrye boat launch along Hwy. 502 — will be turned into a green space that may include composting washroom facilities, and even a device that would use the river to generate power that would be used to power things located on the green space. The Vedette monument will contain a water pump that creates a mist to create the illusion of the plane taking off. “I want people to go there and get the feeling that they’re visiting a site that’s completely unspoiled,” Reeve said. “The Vedette was a flying canoe, and the canoe connects us to the entire history of man. Since it was created, the canoe’s basic design hasn’t really changed at all.” It was also the first aircraft built in Canada. “We want people to be able to picnic there and really enjoy the site,” MHAC chairman Gord Emberley said. Best of all, the green space will be as environmentally friendly as possible. “We want to emphasize the ‘green’ aspect of it,” he added. The project has been in the works for five years, and the MHAC recently began a campaign to solicit donations to help fund the project’s $37,000 first phase. There’s no shortage of people in the community who either have been or are currently involved in aviation. Emberley said project organizers found 80 people in the Eastern Manitoba phone directory who fit that description. “We’ll be approaching all of them to ask for help in funding this,” he said. If enough funding comes through, construction of the Vickers Vedette replica could begin as early as July or August. Seeing as 2010 is the 100th anniversary of the first flight in Manitoba, it seems all the more appropriate, Emberley noted.


Reeve was drawn to the project because it involves more than just a steel replica of an airplane, he said. “When it comes to my art, my goal is to not only give people something to look at, but to give them an actual experience,” he said. “My work is always site-specific. This will be a place where people will come to learn how they can better care for the environment.” With thousands of cottagers flocking to the region each summer, Reeve envisions the site becoming an educational one for those who choose to make the region their summertime playground. “No matter what we do as human beings, we have an impact on our environment,” he said. “I want to show people that as a society we have to start seriously thinking about that.” Emberley feels the Vedette itself is a good metaphor for environmental stewardship. “The Vedette was a green aircraft — it discharged its cargo from the water and left no footprint,” he said. For information on the project or to donate, Emberley can be reached at 345-8916 or e-mail