I recently wrote the following letter to The Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages:
I am writing in regard to the Memorial to the Victims of Communism proposed for a site immediately southwest of the Supreme Court of Canada.
My interest in this project stems from my long association with the history of our country at all levels—federal, provincial and local. I am a member of Canada's History Society and faithful reader of its flagship publication, Canada's History. For a number of years I edited the Chinook Country Historical Society Newsletter, the newsletter of the Calgary chapter of the Historical Society of Alberta. I was also active for many years with the Cliff Bungalow-Mission Community Association’s Heritage Committee working on numerous projects commemorating the community’s unique history.
Guided by my passion for this country’s heritage, I must express my profound objection to the site proposed for this memorial. I do not of course object to an anti-communist memorial as long as it is privately funded and erected in a suitable location. The proposed location is anything but suitable.
The history the monument portrays is not our history. While it is true that people have fled communist dictatorships to come to Canada, as people have fled fascist, theocratic and military dictatorships to come here, the abuses of those regimes belong to the history of the lands from which they came, not to Canada. It is disrespectful, indeed offensive, to attempt to insinuate foreign history into our country's capitol, the very heart of our country’s heritage.
I encourage you, therefore, to preclude a monument dedicated to foreign grievances on this site and reserve it instead for a function central to our own heritage.
This memorial is a monstrous thing designed to devour a grassy site southwest of the Supreme Court on Wellington Street, west of the Parliament buildings. It has been promoted by a group of ardent anti-communists known as Tribute to Liberty, and strongly supported by the federal government. That the fervour of the anti-communists has instilled a lack of respect for our heritage is perhaps understandable, but our government's disrespect is not.
I understand the Supreme Court had hoped to use this site for a courthouse. This would be most appropriate as it would complete the triad of justice buildings, matching the triad of the Parliament buildings.
I understand further that naming the courthouse after former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau has been seriously considered. This would be well-deserved and long overdue. Mr. Trudeau was responsible for both patriating our constitution and introducing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which, along with Medicare, is one of Canadians’ two most cherished institutions. Either of these achievements would in itself merit having a major justice site in the capital named after him.
One can only hope that Prime Minister Harper's antipathy to the Supreme Court and Mr. Trudeau are not the reasons behind the government's support for this memorial.
An array of prominent voices have been heard in opposition to either the monument or the site, or both, including Ottawa's city council, the Natural Capital Commission's design committee, the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin. The Chief Justice summed it up nicely with her observation that 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.”
I hope all those who value Canadian heritage will agree with Justice McLachlin and inform the government accordingly.