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NCC calls for sober second look at location of Afghanistan memorial

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National Afghanistan memorial more than three years away at least

Post by Guest on Tue 19 Sep 2017, 05:59

National Afghanistan memorial more than three years away at least

Even once a site is selected it could take many years to actually build memorial to 158 Canadians who died during mission.

A Canadian LAV (light armoured vehicle) arrives to escort a convoy at a forward operating base near Panjwaii, Afghanistan at sunrise on Nov.26, 2006. Over the course of the mission 158 Canadians were killed there.

By: Ryan Tumilty Metro Published on Mon Sep 18 2017

A new memorial to Canada’s mission in Afghanistan won’t be completed this decade regardless of where the government ultimately decides to build the monument.

Last week, the National Capital Commission deferred a decision on allowing the monument at the Canadian War Museum. That move came after concerns arose from the museum that it was not the right location.

In a briefing note Metro obtained through access to information, Veterans' Affairs estimated that completing the memorial at the War Museum site or the original site at Richmond’s Landing will take years.

“It would take a minimum of 45 months to complete the memorial in the case of (Richmond’s Landing) and a minimum of 52 months in the case of the (Canadian War Museum) site,” reads the memo to deputy minister and retired general Walter Natynczyk.

The Richmond Landing site was the first to be identified, but veterans raised concerns it was inaccessible.

The memo also reveals both locations would require some land decontamination. The complete cost of the project is estimated at between $1.2 million and $2.4 million at Richmond Landing and between $1.5 million and $3 million at the Canadian War Museum.
Newly appointed Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan said in a statement the previous government didn't do enough consultation with veterans who want the museum site.

“Resoundingly, they told us a more appropriate site would be near the Canadian War Museum — recognizing the importance of accessibility and prominence of this memorial,” he said.

O’Regan said there is a process that needs to be followed.

“We remain committed to getting this project done right and not let politics get in the way. These steps include site studies and conducting a national design competition following Government of Canada contracting requirements.”

Conservative MP and Veterans’ Affairs Critic Steven Blaney said it’s unacceptable the government isn’t moving faster on this issue.

“This mission ended three years ago. Now the Liberals are dragging their feet,” he said. “We as Canadians, as government, committed to a memorial. This has to be built sooner rather than later.”


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War Museum 'pleased' NCC board understands memorial concerns

Post by Guest on Thu 14 Sep 2017, 06:11

War Museum 'pleased' NCC board understands memorial concerns

JON WILLING September 13, 2017

The Canadian War Museum says it appreciates that the National Capital Commission’s board of directors decided to hold off on a decision to allow adjacent land to be used for a new Afghanistan war memorial.

“We’re just really pleased those concerns were put forward and they seem to be understood,” said Yasmine Mingay, the museum’s director of public affairs, major gifts and sponsorship.

The NCC board was asked on Tuesday to approve 2,500 square metres of land west of the War Museum to be used for the National Memorial to Canada’s Mission in Afghanistan, should Canadian Heritage and Veterans Affairs Canada choose the site for the project.

However, the board in 2015 approved another location for the memorial on roughly 800 square metres of land on Richmond Landing, near the Portage Bridge.

The NCC owns both sites.

After learning about the War Museum’s opposition, the NCC board put off the decision on Tuesday until members could receive more information.

There was confusion over why there was another parcel of land eyed for the memorial when the board already granted approval for Richmond Landing.

At a meeting for the Veterans Affairs’ commemoration advisory group in July 2016, members voted 6-2 (with two other members absent) in favour of the Richmond Landing site.

The site next to the War Museum became important to Canadian Heritage after a defence and veteran stakeholder summit of 149 participants in October 2016 in Gatineau.

A synopsis of the discussion on the Veterans Affairs website says, “There was great support for the memorial to be located next to the War Museum,” and there was a suggestion that Afghanistan veterans and their families should be consulted.

The Veterans Affairs commemoration advisory group was subsequently told both sites would require $500,000 in cleanup costs for contaminated soil, which would be “manageable” within the $5-million budget for the memorial project.

Last spring, the NCC received a request from Canadian Heritage to use the land west of the War Museum for the memorial. NCC management recommended that board members approve the request.

NCC board chair Marc Seaman agreed that deferring the decision was the right move on Tuesday.

Mingay said the War Museum doesn’t oppose the memorial, pointing to the museum’s past exhibits on the Afghanistan mission and an upcoming section of the gallery that will highlight Canada’s last five missions, including the country’s role in Afghanistan.

The museum wants to be considered a “public history museum” and a “centre of scholarship” that doesn’t emphasize one particular conflict, Mingay said.

It’s also concerned about a memorial interfering with the museum’s landscape, particularly its connection with the Ottawa River.

Asked if there was any circumstance that would convince the War Museum to support the location for the memorial, Mingay said, “We’re not going to be dealing with hypotheticals.”

The Royal Canadian Legion, which is part of the Veterans Affairs commemoration advisory group, wants the memorial project to move ahead without delays but it’s open to discussing possible sites other than Richmond Landing.

Legion spokesperson Nujma Bond said the organization can’t disclose how it voted in that 6-2 decision in July 2016 because of confidentiality rules of the advisory group.

There were two other possible locations plucked from an inventory of commemorative sites in the capital region: land outside Cartier Square Drill Hall jointly owned by the NCC and Department of National Defence, and the lawn of the Canadian Phalanx at Wellington and Lyon streets owned by the City of Ottawa.

Jody Mitic, a city councillor who was one of more than 40,000 Canadian Forces members to serve in Afghanistan, highlighted the importance of having a memorial to the mission.

While Mitic said there doesn’t have to be a monument for every single mission, noting the National War Memorial on Elgin Street represents all conflicts, he said Afghanistan is special because it’s one of Canada’s longest military engagements.

“Anyone asking that question obviously wasn’t there and doesn’t have a dog in the fight because they would understand it is important to have a monument,” Mitic said.


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NCC calls for sober second look at location of Afghanistan memorial

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Sep 2017, 06:47

NCC calls for sober second look at location of Afghanistan memorial

Canadian War Museum opposes government's preferred site on the west side of the building

By Joanne Chianello, CBC News Posted: Sep 12, 2017 6:33 PM ET

A Canadian soldier carries his weapons after a mission southwest of Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2010. The Canadian government wants to build a memorial to Canada's 12-year mission in the country in Ottawa. (Anja Niedringhaus/The Associated Press)

The National Capital Commission board of directors punted a decision on where to locate a proposed memorial to Canada's military mission in Afghanistan back to the federal government Tuesday for "sober reconsideration and reflection."

The government wants to build the National Memorial to Canada's Mission in Afghanistan on a narrow piece of NCC-owned land just west of the Canadian War Museum, a location that the museum — and its renowned architect Raymond Moriyama — vigorously oppose.

"I am not against a monument to commemorate Canada's mission in Afghanistan. But I am afraid I will definitely oppose the suggested proposed site," said Moriyama, who attended the NCC board meeting, in a letter to the government.

The Canadian War Museum is asking that the memorial be moved to a different location, partly in order to preserve the museum's neutrality. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

According to an NCC report, the museum's proponents believe that a memorial on the building's west side "would impact and arguably even detract from the architectural vision as originally intended by the architect."

Adding a monument to commemorate one particular conflict or mission "is certain to attract other such requests, further impacting that architectural vision," they added.

Museum officials also said the memorial could interfere with their goal of being a neutral "centre of scholarly excellence." Placing it so close to the museum could cause it to be mistakenly considered part of the institution, they added.

Board uncomfortable with location

A number of board members indicated they were prepared to vote against the location.

"This is a worthy project," said Kay Stanley. "And because it's a worthy project, it deserves a worthy place. And the place, in my estimation, is not at the far end of the war museum property."

Raymond Moriyama, the key architect of the Canadian War Museum, opposed locating the memorial next to the building. (Giacomo Panico/CBC )

She pointed out that the museum's role is not to compete with the War Memorial as a place of commemoration.

Carol Loughrey, who lives near an armed forces base in New Brunswick, was so choked up speaking about how the 12-year mission in Afghanistan affected soldiers that she couldn't finish her explanation of why she wouldn't support the recommended location.

"I hate to vote against something that honours that incredible choice that was made for these young people," she said.

With little support around the table, Kristmanson suggested the board delay the decision.

"This doesn't preclude in any way the current proposal, but means a sober reconsideration and reflection," Kristmanson said.

"It will also give us an opportunity to perhaps clarify in greater detail what the design options will entail on the proposed site on the west of the War Museum, and make sure the proponents understand the limitations that would be put in effect on that site."

The CEO insisted that the review could be completed within weeks and wouldn't unduly delay the project, first proposed by the former Conservative government.

NCC CEO Mark Kristmanson suggested that the board delay a decision to approve land west of the Canadian War Museum when it was clear a number of members were in opposition. (Giacomo Panico/CBC )

Second time around

There wasn't comfort yet around the table that enough due diligence had been done.
- Mark Kristmanson, National Capital Commission CEO

Tuesday marked the second time that the issue of where to locate the memorial has come before the NCC board.

Last year, the board approved a recommendation to build the memorial at Richmond Landing, which sits along the Ottawa River just south of Victoria Island.

But after the federal government heard from a veterans' group that Richmond Landing was not ideal — it was considered difficult to access, and had poor visibility from the John A. Macdonald Parkway — the decision was revisited, and four NCC-owned properties were considered instead.

Last October, Veterans Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence hosted a stakeholder summit where "the majority of participants selected a preferred site west of the War Museum," according to an NCC report.

Having to revisit the issue appeared to vex at least one board member.

"Stakeholders were involved. A recommendation was made. The board approved it," said Michael Pankiw.

NCC board member Michael Pankiw said he didn't know why the board was being asked to reconsider an issue it had already approved. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

"And now the same proponent appears to be coming back and saying 'Well, we've talked to a different group of people and they think that this is a better idea, so therefore we want you to consider this new proposal."

"I guess the clarification that I need is, with respect to — boy, this is going to sound really bad — who is actually making the decisions … that come to us for approval?" he added. "I don't quite understand why this [issue] is even here."

Although the NCC must officially approve the use of land it controls, in reality, the federal government ultimately decides where memorials are located.

"The NCC has to approve federal land use, and eventually we'll have to approve this particular use," Kristmanson told reporters after the meeting. "But you could see there wasn't comfort yet around the table that enough due diligence had been done."


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