Anti-Communism Memorial: Harper's Mailbox Brims With Angry Messages About Plan

10/01/2015 08:58 EDT | Updated 10/01/2016 05:12 EDT
OTTAWA — Stephen Harper's mailbox is filling up with messages from Canadians upset about the concept, size, location and cost of a national memorial for victims of communism, newly released correspondence shows.

The prime minister has received dozens of handwritten letters, typewritten notes and emails from people — including Conservative supporters — who question the idea of a such a monument, especially just a stone's throw from the Supreme Court of Canada.

A few people backed the project, though two of them argued it should be built elsewhere.

"With all the calamities happening around the world, such a memorial is hypocritical and short-sighted," wrote one opponent. "A memorial ought to encompass all victims of human tragedies and incite global leaders to respect their nations and countrymen. Otherwise, don't bother."

Some correspondents were more blunt.

"What an absurd project," wrote one.

"This is outrageous! Stop this waste of my money now," said another.

The Canadian Press obtained the letters and emails to the prime minister through an Access to Information request that covered correspondence from Jan. 1, 2014, through late June of this year. Some missives are still being processed for release.

The names of almost all of the individuals and groups who wrote to Harper were withheld to protect their privacy. Other records were excluded from disclosure because they constituted briefings to cabinet.

The Conservative government has promoted the planned memorial as a means of recognizing the many millions who died or suffered under communist regimes. The government is managing the project on behalf of Tribute to Liberty, a charity established in 2008.

The concept by Toronto-based ABSTRAKT Studio Architecture features a series of angular peaks, or "memory folds," with more than 100 million pixel-like "memory squares" — each representing a person — covering the exterior face of the folds. It also includes a Bridge of Hope and elevated viewing platform.

The $5.5-million project — to be built with federal and private funds — has drawn objections over its imposing design and planned location on a grassy square in the parliamentary precinct long set aside for a new Federal Court building.

The monument, originally intended to be the height of three city buses, was scaled back considerably in June, partly in response to a federal advisory panel's concerns. A final design is expected later this year.

"It would be more appropriate to build a monument to the victims of your heartless, ideological government," one concerned person wrote the day the latest design was unveiled.

But even supporters were irked. "I suggest that this entire initiative be reconsidered. Should it go ahead, I will have to reconsider my donation level," an email warned.

The original size of the planned memorial and its proximity to the National War Memorial — a few blocks away — is "insulting to the sacrifices and memory" of family members who served in the two World Wars, wrote another.

Said a "disgusted" correspondent last March: "This monstrosity of a memorial is to be placed on prime land that it was never meant to be on."

Several people suggested it would be more appropriate to commemorate the suffering of aboriginal peoples — or improve the standard of living in Canada's indigenous communities.

One email message recommended "using whatever money is available, some millions I assume, to ensure that all our First Nations communities have properly functioning water and sewer systems, or housing with proper heating and insulation." 

A number felt there was insufficient public input on the memorial.

Wrote one: "The decision, taken without consulting Canadians in a truly democratic way, and against the wishes of many, is most regrettable."

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