Scaled down

The Compass - - EDITORIAL -

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

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