First Nations carver brings old wood to life in Charlottetown

Brian McInnis
Published on August 20, 2014

Charlottetown is losing many of its stately old elm trees to disease, but the dead wood that is left after the trees are taken down is being used by a First Nations carver, who is making the wood live again in his artwork.

Master wood carver, Levi Cannon, has been hired by the City of Charlottetown to do carvings for the past five summers.

Born in Ontario on the Golden Lake reserve as part of the Bear Clan of the Algonquin Six Nations, Cannon was adopted by an Island family.

His work can be seen in the various city neighbourhoods, the Charlottetown Driving Park, the Charlottetown Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, North River Road and a bust of the city’s first mayor at city hall and soon a giant lobster and tuna will adorn the Charlottetown Harbour Authority property near Founders Hall. He is also responsible for the statue of Robin Hood in Sherwood.

The tuna will be hung outside near the wharf as if it was just landed. The lobster will be placed either inside Historic Charlottetown Seaport or at some location nearby.

The carvings are created by Cannon, but the idea for them came from Mayor Clifford Lee, the carver said during an interview Tuesday in an open space adjacent to Founders Hall where he has spent the summer creating the tuna and lobster. He began his work back in May.

“The mayor came to see me a few years back and said he couldn’t handle seeing all this good wood go to waste and he wanted to find some way to beautify the city a little better and this is what we came up with, outside installations (the carvings).”

As he spoke and posed for photos, visitors stopped to look at his work and ask questions of the carver. He said that he speaks to and explains his carvings to hundreds of people a day.

The tuna is completed except for attaching the fins and tail, but the lobster is weeks behind schedule because of the summer weather.

“The weather has been a killer here for us this summer…every time it rains a dead stop comes to me and then when we had the storm (tropical storm Arthur) come through, all the city crews were doing cleanup so I couldn’t get my guy down here to do my cutting for me.”

He is not sure if he will have the time to finish the lobster before he is told to stop working.

Then there are the vandals who think it is fun to destroy property.

“We have had a little bit of a problem,” Cannon said. “They tried to take my big table here and there is always garbage thrown around the site.”

They could not steal the table because the 1,600 pound tuna is on it, he said. They also tried and failed to tip over a huge piece of tree trunk that also weighs thousands of pounds.