Thursday, March 12, 2015

Reviving the Red Scare

Mr. Harper, please tear up those plans for Ottawa’s anti-Communism memorial.
That’s not likely to happen, but it’s worth asking. We all should be asking, in fact demanding.
The planned Memorial to Victims of Communism is a really bad idea, questioned by some very prominent people, including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the mayor of Ottawa. It is destined to become a memorial to the current government’s stubbornness and an embarrassment to Canadians.
Jet Blast Baffles
It all began six years ago when a private group, championed by the Conservative government, received approval to build a memorial to victims of communism. The government then allocated a choice piece of vacant land between the National Library and Supreme Court of Canada, which are almost a part of Parliament Hill. The land is in what is known as the judicial precinct and it was assumed it would hold a new Federal Court building.
Work on the memorial is supposed to begin at winter’s end with the dedication in October, around the time of the expected federal election. The estimated cost is $5 million, with federal taxpayers paying $3 million while $2 million will be raised privately.
The design of the memorial is every bit as monstrous as the idea. It features six parallel concrete rows, each one higher the other and rising to a height of 14.5 metres. They look like those concrete jet blast baffles that you see at the end of some airport runways. These concrete chunks are to be covered with 100 million ‘memory squares’ each representing a life lost to Communist governments around the world.
So we assume that since the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 someone has kept a count of the number of people killed by communism around the world. Makes you wonder if anyone has kept count of the people killed by capitalism. Or, the number of North American Indians who died, and continue to die, because of colonialism.
This memorial is not only ridiculous, it is un-Canadian. It diminishes the millions of people in China, Cuba, Vietnam and other countries that have the communist system of government. We Canadians care about people, not their system of government.
In 1959 when Cuba went communist, Canada maintained diplomatic relations with Cuba and provided it foreign aid. Most importantly, Canadians have supplied money and expertise to improve Cuban agriculture, which has improved the lives of tens of thousands of Cuban country people. We didn’t allow the label of their government to stop us from helping the people.
The planned Ottawa memorial follows the lead of the United States, which put up a memorial to victims of communism in 2007. It is a statue, a three-metre high bronze replica of the Goddess of Democracy, far smaller and much less hideous than what is planned for Ottawa.
If this anti-communism memorial is supposed to be about human rights, it should be noted that we already have one. The Canadian Museum of Human Rights opened last fall in Winnipeg at a cost of $350 million. It is a spectacular reminder that we Canadians do our best to improve human rights without being preachy, and while remembering that our record in human rights is not without blemish.
Our memorials should reflect our pride in accomplishments and inspire us to be better people. They should not be designed to provoke conflicts with people who believe in systems different from ours. The anti-communism memorial points an angry finger at communist countries, accusing them of tyranny, brutality and murder.  
And speaking of tyranny, how is it that a $1-million piece of prime land next to Parliament Hill in Ottawa gets turned over to a private group without any public consultation?

Mr. Harper, tear down this bad idea. It makes Canadians look small, narrow minded and too judgmental. Canadians are bigger than that. Big enough to look forward for a better world, instead of backwards into the past.

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