Victims of communism memorial to be moved, Joly announces

Design for the proposed Memorial to the Victims of Communism / Image: via Ottawa Citizen

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Heritage Ottawa welcomes Minister Joly's announcement that the Long Term Vision Plan for Canada's Capital will be respected, and that the Victims of Communism Monument will not be erected on the site identified for the future Federal Court. Consultations on the design and the site will take place in the new year.

Thank you, Minister Joly!

OTTAWA CITIZEN, By Don Butler

Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly announced Thursday that the controversial Memorial to the Victims of Communism will be moved to the Garden of the Provinces and Territories from its previously proposed location next to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Joly said the process used by the former Conservative government to advance the memorial was “too political and too divisive.” The federal government will contribute up to $1.5 million to the project, substantially less than the $4.3 million in public money the Conservatives were prepared to spend.

Tribute to Liberty, the project’s sponsoring group, will try to raise another $1.5 million, bringing the total cost to $3 million, down from its $5.5-million budget under the previous government.

Joly said she consulted more than 30 people before deciding what to do with the contentious memorial, and there was a broad consensus that moving it to the Garden of the Provinces was appropriate.

The government plans to hold a new national competition in 2016 to choose a new, presumably smaller, design for the memorial.

The government will launch public consultations early next year to review the design considerations and will consult the public again once a selection jury has chosen the winning design. The aim is to complete the memorial by 2018.

The memorial was first proposed in 2008, when Tribute to Liberty was created with the help of Conservative cabinet minister Jason Kenney.

It received approval in principle from all parties a couple of years later and in 2011, the National Capital Commission offered a site at the Garden of the Provinces, on Wellington Street just east of LeBreton Flats.

The chosen site was initially met with enthusiasm by Kenney and Tribute to Liberty. But in 2013, the government announceda new 5,000-square-metre site near the Supreme Court had been selected.

That site had long been reserved for a future Federal Court of Canada building in the government’s Long Term Vision and Plan for the parliamentary and judicial precincts.

The new site attracted little notice until September 2014, when Ottawa architect Barry Padolsky wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, protesting that the site had been “stolen” by the government for the memorial.

Others soon registered their protests, including Shirley Blumberg, a prominent Toronto architect who served on the jury that selected the winning design following a national competition.

Meanwhile, with Tribute to Liberty struggling to raise money from donors, the government quietly increased the taxpayer contribution to the memorial to more than $4 million.

Public concern about the project ramped up after images of the chosen design were released a year ago. As more voices spoke out against the memorial, public attitudes hardened and the project — designed to be a vote-getter for the Conservative government — gradually became a political liability.

Though work was supposed to begin on the memorial this year, it was delayed by NCC concerns about the design’s scope and appearance and the need to remove contaminated soil on the chosen site.

Ultimately, with polls showing the memorial was hugely unpopular with Ottawa residents, the whole project was put on hold until after the election. The Liberal party came out against the chosen site last spring.