A monumental controversy: History of the Memorial to Victims of Communism

A monumental controversy: history of the memorial to victims of communism
A drawing of the winning ABSTRAKT Studio

Kenney, named to cabinet as secretary of state for multiculturalism earlier that year, was walking with Pavel Vosalik, then the Czech ambassador to Canada, when the two came across a monument on the park’s grounds.

Titled Crucified Again, the monument depicts a tortured man crucified on a hammer and sickle, a stark symbol of Soviet oppression. It had been unveiled in 1989 to honour the millions who suffered or died at the hands of communist regimes throughout the world.

When Kenney saw the statue, his first thought was that it should be in a public park in Toronto where more people could see it, Vosalik recalls. The ambassador reminded Kenney that Ottawa, not Toronto, was Canada’s capital. “That’s the moment we started to talk about some place where the victims of communism could be commemorated in Ottawa,” Vosalik says.

Since that day in Masaryktown, the saga of the Memorial to the Victims of Communism has followed a winding and often secretive path en route to becoming the capital’s most contentious new landmark.

Immersed in politics from birth, the project has struggled to raise money from the eight million Canadians who proponents say can trace their lineage to communist countries. It has been assigned three different sites — two announced publicly and one emphatically not — and has provoked strong opposition to its size, design and prime location on Wellington Street. The Citizen set out to tell its story, relying on documents and interviews — both on the record and off — with people knowledgeable about the project’s history. ….