Timeline: Memorial to the Victims of Communism

2007

Jason Kenney, then minister of state for multiculturalism, and Pavel Vosalik, then the Czech ambassador to Canada, conceive the idea of an Ottawa memorial to victims of Communism.

2008

Kenney publicly pledges support for the memorial and two separate groups —the Open Book Group and, seven months later, Tribute to Liberty—form to promote the idea and raise funds.

2009

January: Tribute to Liberty and the Open Book Group submit competing proposals for a memorial to the National Capital Commission.

June: After the NCC urges the two proponents to work together, they submit a joint proposal, though the Open Book Group ultimately ceases to participate.

2010

March: The Conservative government pledges support for a national monument to victims of communism in the Speech from the Throne. Tribute to Liberty sets a fundraising goal of $1.5 million.

April: Tribute to Liberty obtains charitable status.

August: The NCC announces that a location at the Garden of the Provinces and Territories at Wellington and Bay streets has been chosen for the memorial.

Related

2011

Struggling to raise money for the memorial, Tribute to Liberty applies for funding from Canadian Heritage’s Celebrate and Commemorate Program. The group also asks the NCC to change its policy forbidding on-site recognition of donors at commemorative sites. The NCC abandons the policy the following year.

2012

Spring: Tribute to Liberty informs supporters that it has raised about $130,000 to date but most was spent on expenses. The group also reveals that “several locations” are now under consideration for the memorial.

May: Public Works quietly allocates a 5,000-square-metre site on Wellington Street between the Supreme Court and Library and Archives Canada for the memorial, but makes no public announcement until the summer of 2013.

July: Tribute to Liberty says it is counting on $750,000 in matching contributions from the federal government.

2013

March: Public Works asks the NCC to add the memorial to the current site’s permitted uses.

August: The government announces that Citizenship and Immigration Canada will give Tribute to Liberty $1.5 million over two years to help build the new landmark.

November: The NCC’s board approves the new site near the Supreme Court, saying the project is in line with strategies in its corporate plan supporting significant commemorations on Confederation Blvd.

2014

April: The federal government announces a design competition for the memorial, which now has an estimated price tag of $4 million.

August: The government unveils six final design concepts for the memorial. The Citizen later reports that the government has boosted its financial support for the project to $3 million plus the land.

September: In an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, prominent Ottawa architect Barry Padolsky accuses the federal government of ‘stealing’ the site, which had been designated for a new judicial building.

December: The government announces that a design by ABSTRAKT Studio Architecture has won the design competition for the memorial. The winning design features six parallel concrete rows, rising 14.5 metres at their highest, covered with 100 million “memory squares,” each representing a life lost to Communist regimes worldwide. The estimated cost of the memorial is now about $5.5 million, with the federal government providing $4.3 million.

A drawing of the winning ABSTRAKT Studio Architecture concept for the National Memorial to Victims of Communism which was to be situated near the Supreme Court of Canada.

2015

January: The Citizen reports that Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin had raised concerns about the “bleakness and brutalism” of some of the memorial designs in a letter to Public Works in September, 2014.

February: The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada releases a statement ‘respectfully’ requesting that the government reconsider the site chosen for the memorial, and build it at the ‘equally prominent and fitting site’ at the Garden of the Provinces and Territories

March: Pierre Poilievre, the minister for the national capital region, endorses the chosen location for the memorial, saying downtown Ottawa doesn’t need another government building (on the site.)

The Citizen reveals that the NCC had been advised six years before that the theme recognizing victims of communism was not Canadian enough and could sow division in some communities.

May: Ottawa Centre MPP Paul Dewar protests the monument, believing that the blueprint for the future of the Hill has been ignored.

June: With work on the memorial due to start this summer, it’s announced that the project will be scaled down to be less intrusive on the site.

July: A poll shows the memorial has little support with the Canadian public, and in Ottawa in particular. There is concern about the use of public space by groups with money and political clout.

August: Mark Kristmanson, chief of the NCC sends a letter saying its approval of the memorial is postponed until after the October 19 election.  Russ Mills, the NCC’s former head, tells the Citizen that the body had had “no choice” in the site for the monument .

September: The Citizen reports that the government of Hungary had quietly donated over $120,000 for the monument to Tribute to Liberty, which had been struggling to raise their share.

October: With election of a Liberal government, Ottawa mayor Jim Watson tells the memorial’s backers that it’s “highly unlikely” it will be built on the proposed Supreme Court site.

December: The new Liberal government announces it has decided to support the Memorial to the Victims of Communism, but with a new design, lower cost, and on a different site.

2016

February: Former MP Paul Dewar writes a Citizen column saying the monument is not needed and that reconciliation with Canada’s indigenous people is the more pressing issue.

April: The NCC approves a new site for the memorial in the Garden of the Provinces and Territories on Wellington Street. More than 8,500 people have given input, with the majority wanting a human-scaled monument set in an intimate environment.

August: The Citizen reports that the behind-schedule project now has a total budget of $3.5 million, with a taxpayer cost of $2 million

2017

March: Five competing designs are revealed for the drastically downsized memorial at the Garden of the Provinces and Territories on Wellington Street. A modernist sculpture on the location will be relocated.

May: A sculpture of bronze rods configured in a giant arc and intended to act as a “living calendar” is chosen as the winning design for the memorial. It is selected after public consultations in March 2017 and on recommendation of a jury of design professionals. Construction is expected to cost $3 million, with the federal government committing $1.5 million plus $500,000 for the design process. Tribute to Liberty will contribute the other $1.5 million.

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