October 27, 2015
Ottawa Mayor nixes Anti-Communism memorial: 'Tribute to Liberty' sponsoring group gets told, 26 Oct 15
It’s “highly unlikely” the Memorial to the Victims of Communism will ever be built on the proposed site near the Supreme Court of Canada now that the federal Liberals have swept to power, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson bluntly told the memorial’s backers when he met with them last week.
by Matthew Pearson, 26 Oct 15 Source: http://bit.ly/208P8Po
Watson has been an outspoken critic of the proposed monument’s location on Wellington Street and said Ludwik Klimkowski and Anna Dombrovska — officials from Tribute to Liberty, the charity behind the controversial memorial — clearly knew where he stood when the three met Friday in the mayor’s boardroom.
“I told them in very blunt terms that this project should be put on hold,” Watson said Monday in an interview with the Citizen. “We should have a proper consultation with the broader public, not just inside government, and seek greater consensus on where the monument should be placed.”
“I said, ‘I think you’re going to have to take a little water with your wine and come back with a scaled-back version at a different location that is more acceptable to the community.'”
The mayor says he noted there is virtually no public support for the site in question, and that those expressing concerns have ranged from Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin to members of Parliament and city councillors to renowned architects and community activists.
“I told them that continuing (to push) this site made them tone-deaf,” Watson said, adding there is some consensus that the Garden of the Provinces would be a more appropriate site. But even that location, west of the Supreme Court, would require the monument to be scaled back dramatically, he said.
The mayor says he questioned Klimkowski and Dombrovska on the funding arrangement for the monument, which he characterized as “very mysterious.”
Telling the public how much the project will cost and who is funding it would go a long way to ease the public’s concerns, Watson said.
Despite the presence of eight million people in Canada with links to former or current communist regimes around the world, Tribute to Liberty has struggled to raise its $1.26-million share of the memorial’s $5.5-million cost.
Documents released to the Citizen under access to information in August showed the federal government will pay $4.2 million of the cost — far more than the $3 million it had previously disclosed.
Watson says he also criticized the group for its poor record of public consultation. “I wasn’t being rude but I told them, ‘This is a case study in how not to get the community onside,'” the mayor said.
“You’re taking what should be a positive event, namely the unveiling of a new monument, and turning it into a very negative event because of the process, or lack of process, you followed to get us here.”
Watson said he wasn’t sure if the pair were listening to him at first, but by the end of the meeting they appeared to understand that it’s “highly unlikely” the monument will be built at the current proposed location, especially considering the opposition of newly elected Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna. (Watson was quick to note that McKenna’s predecessor, Paul Dewar, was also outspoken in his opposition to the proposed location.)
Had the Conservatives been re-elected with a majority last week, Watson said the project “would have gone ahead full steam,” so the Liberal victory brought with it a huge sense of relief with regards to this project.
“This will basically put the brakes on this site,” he said.
The mayor’s version of last Friday’s meeting is somewhat at odds with a post on Tribute to Liberty’s Facebook page, where Klimkowski called the meeting with Watson “very productive” and said the two sides “exchanged ideas and discussed steps of further co-operation.”
Contacted late Monday afternoon, Klimkowski told the Citizen that McLachlin’s opposition to the memorial “was about this horrific image of the victims of Katyn Forest (massacre). So I was kind of disappointed that (Watson) used her as one of the opponents of the memorial and its location when in fact it wasn’t her intention.”
Klimkowski also pointed out that the most recent plans for the memorial is smaller than the first design, and would “preserve a nice, decent park in the middle of this beautiful city of ours,” adding that, “this is no longer about the legacy of Stephen Harper, as some of the opponents suggested. It is really about hard-working fellow Canadians who want to say thank you to Canada and Canadians.”
Canadian Heritage, which is overseeing the project, would only say that “an update on this memorial project will be provided in due course.”
— With files from Don Butler
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