Canadian Heritage announces competition for memorial to communism’s victims
By Robert Sibley, OTTAWA CITIZEN April 1, 2014 8:54 PM
OTTAWA — Ideologically, communism might be dead — tossed on the trash heap of history, to recast Karl Marx’s famous phrase — but its victims won’t be forgotten, at least in the national capital.
On Tuesday, the federal government announced a design competition for a memorial to the victims of communism. The monument will commemorate the millions who perished or suffered under tyrannical communism. Titled Memorial to the Victims of Communism: Canada, a Land of Refuge, the $4-million project, including $1.9 million in construction costs, will be located on Wellington Street between the Supreme Court and Library and Archives Canada.
“We have at least two generations of people who don’t really understand what communism was all about, and what it still is in many countries around the world,” Ludwik Klimkowski, chairman of Tribute to Liberty, the charity behind the memorial, said. “With this memorial your children, your grandchildren, won’t forget the stories of those who suffered under communism.”
Government ministers reiterated this theme.
“This monument will be a lasting symbol of the hardship endured by millions under Communist rule and a tribute to those who risked so much to reach the safety of Canada, where freedom, democracy and the rule of law are cherished,” Heritage Minister Shelly Glover said Tuesday.
Jason Kenney, minister of employment and multiculturalism, echoed the sentiment.
“This memorial will also serve as a reminder to all Canadians that glorifying communist symbols insults the memory of these victims,” he said, adding that it would also remind Canadians of their country’s core values.
These “values” are to be reflected in the monument’s design. “The memorial will be a solemn place inviting all visitors to reflect on the impact of communism and on the meaning of oppression and freedom,” according to Canadian Heritage’s “project vision.”
Design teams are to submit their qualifications for evaluation by May 2. By the end of May, six qualified teams will be invited to submit their concepts. A contract will be awarded in September, with winner expected to complete the memorial in time for an unveiling in the late summer of 2015.
The project has received widespread endorsement by various ethnic communities — everyone from Poles and Vietnamese to Tibetans and Cubans — whose members endured (and still endure) persecution at the hands of communist regimes, said Klimkowski, noting that more than eight million Canadians came to this country from communist-ruled states.
First proposed by Tribute to Liberty in 2008, and later endorsed by the Conservative government in a 2010 Throne Speech, the memorial project has not be without controversy.
At one point, members of the National Capital Commission, which allocated the land for the memorial, fretted about whether it would offend communists.
Last fall, when the government announced its intention to proceed with the memorial, Green Party leader Elizabeth May was roundly criticized after asking on Twitter why the Tories had made “no mention of a monument to victims of capitalism.”
Kenney responded, saying: “Perhaps that’s because no one was shot in the back while risking their lives to flee eastward over the Iron Curtain.”
Kenney had the evidence of history on his side. The Black Book of Communism, a 1997 compendium of research essays by European academics, documents a legacy of repression, persecution, imprisonment, forced labour, famine and genocide at the hands of communist tyrants — from Russian dictator Josef Stalin’s deliberate starvation of more than seven million Ukrainians in the 1930s to the Khmer Rouge regime’s slaughter of millions in the killing fields of Cambodia in the late 1970s.
Indeed, according to the book’s editor, Stéphane Courtois, communist regimes are responsible for the deaths of more people — the numbers approach 100 million — than any other political ideology, including Nazism. Chinese dictator Mao Zedong alone killed an estimated 65 million people with his efforts to turn China into a socialist paradise, surpassing Adolf Hitler as history’s worse mass murderer.
In this regard, said Klimkowski, Canada’s new memorial will provide a “beacon” by which these victims of communist ideology are remembered.
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