Ottawa city council voted Wednesday to formally ask the federal government to move a national memorial for victims of communism away from a location next to the Supreme Court of Canada.
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Council approved the motion 18-6 to ask the federal government to respect their own long-term vision for the Parliamentary and judicial precincts, which outlined the importance of completing the judicial precinct with the future construction of a Federal Court building.
"It's about the most prominent street in our city for visitors and residents." - Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said in the debate he was bothered by the lack of consultation before the decision, and said the city is right to intervene.
"It definitely is a city issue," he said.
"It's about proper planning procedures, it's about respecting plans and designs that have been agreed to under federal planning rules. It's about the most prominent street in our city for visitors and residents."
'This is not our sandbox', says councillor
Other city councillors, however, felt the motion was outside the city's mandate, as the location is federal land under the jurisdiction of the National Capital Commission.
"This is not our sandbox," said Allan Hubley. "In my view, this is not our business."
The Victims of Communism memorial has been a divisive issue in the city since the NCC approved its construction on a vacant site between the Supreme Court of Canada and Library and Archives Canada buildings on Wellington Street.
The location has drawn complaints from a number of parties, including the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada.
City council's motion re-ignited the debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
During Question Period, NDP MP Paul Dewar once again called on the government to change the location
"A fundamental cornerstone of our democracy is about consultation and consultation requires listening. Will the minister do our democracy the honour of listening and respecting elected representatives?"
Minister of Canadian Heritage Shelly Glover responded by stating it's not a municipal issue, and the monument should be built in the prominent place the government has proposed.
"Our federal government provided federal land for a national monument," she said.
Pierre Poilievre, the minister responsible for the National Capital Commission, said after Question Period the proposed site is best suited for a memorial, not a building.
"Obviously, municipal politicians want to construct yet another building for government lawyers, destroying beautiful green space, then they're going to have to find their own land and their own money to pay for it because that's not the priority of this government," he said.
The $5.5 million-dollar monument by a Toronto architect features six rising, concrete slabs covered with millions of "memory squares" to commemorate lives lost under various communist regimes.
Other prominent Canadians to speak out against the location include Shirley Blumberg, one of the jury members that picked the monument design, Ottawa architect Barry Padolsky and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverley McLachlin
Chair of group behind memorial 'disappointed' in motion
Ludwik Klimkowski, chair of Tribute to Liberty, the group behind the memorial, responded to the city's motion as council was still debating.
"On one hand, I'm disappointed with it. Because not only the City of Ottawa but a number of leading individuals in the city, prominent individuals, have known of the location and our intention for a number of years now," Klimkowski said.
Despite the vote and other opposition to the monument's placement, Klimkowski today insisted the memorial must be built on the chosen site near the Supreme Court which he describes as having a symbolic value "like no other".
"We do have a lot of individuals who came to this country who came from the countries that are still oppressed by communism", Klimkowski said.
"And they wish nothing but for this memorial to be in a central and pristine location as it was proposed by the government."