The Memorial to the Victims of Communism is a worthy tribute to hundreds of thousands who suffered or died at the hands of Communist forces between 1948 and 1989. It’s a simple affair: seven bronze statues of decrepit-looking political prisoners descending a flight of stairs.
This is the one in the Czech Republic, of course. It’s in Prague, and honours the local victims of that era.
In Canada, the proposed Memorial to the Victims of Communism may have started out as an earnest proposal, but was soon taken zealously under wing by Stephen Harper and his ministers, apparently eager to follow suit with the their friends south of the border.
The U.S. Victims of Communism Memorial is located in Washington, and was dedicated by then president George W. Bush in 2007. According to the spearheading foundation, it was erected so that “the history of communist tyranny will be taught to future generations.”
Last month, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told those backing the Canadian counterpart they should put their plans on the back burner.
“I told them in very blunt terms that this project should be put on hold,” Watson told the Ottawa 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.”
Right now, the proposed site is in prime territory, near the Supreme Court of Canada. Its size and location have been widely criticized by politicians, judges, architects and numerous other members of the community.
Nonetheless, the project gained a lot of momentum under Harper. The Citizen discovered in August that federal funding promises had jumped to $4.2 million from the original $3 million.
Harper and his cabinet have been personally involved in paving its way, which is unusual given it’s supposed to be a community initiative overseen by an independent foundation.
The memorial’s backers, however, now want to distance themselves from the outgoing administration.
“This is no longer about the legacy of Stephen Harper, as some of the opponents suggested,” Ludwik Klimkowski told the Citizen. “It is really about hard-working fellow Canadians who want to say thank you to Canada and Canadians.” It’s a noble sentiment, but misplaced. Communism is a political ideology, just like capitalism and feudalism. Its victims were actually victims of tyranny, and tyranny comes in many forms.
The memorial may still see the light of day, but likely in a scaled down form and in a different location.
And that is as it should be.
— This editorial was originally published in The Telegram