PMO wavers on war hero statues
'Too militaristic' for Confederation Square
The Ottawa Citizen
The federal government is undecided about the prospect of statues of Canadian war heroes on Confederation Square, facing the national war memorial and the grave of the unknown soldier.
Some government officials appear to believe the statues would be "too militaristic" for the location, says Hamilton Southam, leader of a drive to honour eight Canadian heroes with statues on the square.
Mr. Southam said he's also heard some officials believe the statues would be "too big" for the square. "That's not true," Mr. Southam said. "The statues we propose are only slightly larger than lifesize."
Senior government officials have suggested it might be better to place some or all of the statues outside a new Canadian War Museum, due to open in late 2004 on LeBreton Flats, Mr. Southam said.
But this idea is strongly opposed by veterans' leaders and military historians, and members of a panel assembled by Mr. Southam to seek government approval and funding to honour war heroes with statues on the square in the heart of the capital.
"We believe the statues of war heroes should keep the unknown soldier company," said Mr. Southam, a veteran of the Second World War and longtime Ottawa resident.
Officials in the office of Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Heritage Minister Sheila Copps recently raised with Mr. Southam the possibility of putting some or all of the statues near the new war museum.
Mr. Southam said he met in April with Jean Pelletier, the prime minister's chief of staff, to explain his group's proposal.
Mr. Pelletier "seemed supportive in principle," Mr. Southam said. But then, last month, Mr. Southam received "a rather troubling letter (from Mr. Pelletier) suggesting that locating our statues at the new war museum on LeBreton Flats might be an option."
Joe Geurts, head of the war museum, said "it would be very premature to even say it would be possible to accommodate the statues at the site of the new museum."
Mr. Southam's group wants to place the eight statues on large plinths, or stone blocks, that ring Confederation Square. The blocks have stood on the square for decades.
The federal government has estimated the combined cost of the statues at about $2 million. Canadian Heritage officials have suggested to Mr. Southam's group that at least some of the money should be raised privately.
The group proposes to raise $300,000, or 15 per cent of the cost. That's the same percentage as the private sector has been asked to raise towards the cost of a $115-million war museum.
Mr. Southam said the federal government has commissioned a public opinion survey this month on what people think of the idea.
People will be asked specifically about the eight heroes proposed by Mr. Southam's group.
The eight: Joseph Brant, Mohawk statesmen; Charles-Michel de Salaberry, a hero of the War of 1812; Laura Secord, whose warning led to an important Canadian victory in the War of 1812; Georgina Pope, for her service in the Boer War; Arthur Currie, for leadership in the First World War; Hampton Gray, awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery; Paul Triquet, who won the Victoria Cross; Andrew Mynarski, a Lancaster bomber, who also won the Victoria Cross.