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Harper’s Memorial to the Victims of Communism raises numerous concerns

Artist conception of Memorial to the Victims of Communism.

The Harper government is promoting a 5,000-square-metre Memorial to the Victims of Communism that would be situated on Wellington Street in Ottawa, diagonally across from the Supreme Court of Canada building. The monument is scheduled to be completed and in place this fall, just prior to the October 19 federal election. It is already highly controversial.


The cost of the memorial has already increased from an initial $1.5 million to $5.5 million now. Shirley Blumberg, a partner at one of Canada’s most creative architectural firms, says the final cost could be $8 million or even $12 million. Donations are supposed to cover $2.5 million of the cost. In August 2014, it was reported that the memorial will receive about $4 million from three federal government departments – Citizenship and Immigration, Canadian Heritage and Public Works.


Last week, the Ottawa Citizen reported, “The Department of Canadian Heritage, which is overseeing the monument project, previously told the Citizen that the current site ‘was deemed more favourable’ by Tribute to Liberty [the private charity behind the project] because of its proximity and ‘thematic links’ to the Supreme Court of Canada, the Peace Tower, Parliament Hill and Library and Archives Canada.”

But Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson, commenting on other urban design issues in Ottawa, notes, “Equally bad is the site for the new Memorial to the Victims of Communism, the brainchild of a private foundation eagerly supported by the Harper government.” He quotes Blumberg who says, “I have a massive problem, a huge problem, with this memorial going on that site. I think it completely misrepresents and skews what Canada is all about.” Blumberg notes that the memorial will “completely dominate” nearby buildings, while Simpson notes, “From some angles, the huge new memorial will block views of the Supreme Court.”


In a September 2014 letter, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin says, “Regrettably, some of the proposed designs for the memorial could send the wrong message within the judicial precinct, unintentionally conveying a sense of bleakness and brutalism that is inconsistent with a space dedicated to the administration of justice.” Maclean’s magazine also reports, “Several prominent architects and urban planners have voiced their concerns about the memorial, including University of British Columbia’s Larry Beasley, Vancouver’s retired director of planning, and one of the most respected figures in Canadian urban planning circles.”


And Globe and Mail columnist Roy MacGregor writes, “Canada is, of course, the recognized world leader in apologies. Only a fool would deny that millions have been the tragic victims of communism, but that number pales, surely, in comparison with the victims of capitalism. If we agree to date communism to the Russian Revolution of 1917 – feel free to argue the point – the dating of capitalism’s crimes would have to extend back beyond the Crusades and the spice wars to the very first deal that went badly sour. Regardless of that, and despite the fact that there is already a most-impressive and expensive Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, this new memorial in Ottawa is going ahead.”

The Council of Canadians calls on the Harper government to rethink their plans given these concerns being raised about this memorial.