Melanie Joly Promises Prompt Decision On Controversial Communism Memorial

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MELANIE JOLY
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OTTAWA — Newly minted Heritage Minister Melanie Joly is promising a prompt decision on plans for a controversial memorial to victims of communism.

Joly says she'll decide on the project's fate after talking to all stakeholders.

The Harper government approved erecting the monument on a parcel of land between the Supreme Court of Canada and the Library and Archives Canada, on Wellington Street just a few blocks west of Parliament Hill.

But, as Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson noted after a meeting with Joly, the proposed site "is not acceptable to anyone."

The land, worth an estimated $1 million, had been earmarked as the site for a new federal court building.

Beverley McLachlin, chief justice of the Supreme Court, has expressed concern that placing the memorial within the judicial precinct could convey "a sense of bleakness and brutalism" that is inconsistent with the administration of justice.

The City of Ottawa and architects have roundly condemned not just the site but the chosen design - a series of hulking concrete rows etched with 100 million memory squares meant to represent lives lost to communist regimes.

After meeting with Watson on Thursday, Joly said she's also spoken about the memorial with cabinet colleague Catherine McKenna, who represents the downtown Ottawa riding in which the monument was to be erected, and other Ottawa MPs.

"Once I will have gathered all the information I need to take a decision, I'll take a decision promptly," she said.

Watson noted that one of his criticisms of the proposed memorial was the lack of consultation. So he said Joly is "wise" to consult widely and take as much as two or three months to come to a decision.

"If this project is going to go ahead, it has to be done in a much more transparent, open and accountable fashion and that there's proper public consultation," he said.

Watson reiterated his preference that the memorial be erected further west along Wellington Street, in the Garden of the Provinces.

"I think that would be less controversial and more appropriate," he said.

However, Watson noted that, as currently proposed, the monument would be too big for that site.

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