Victims of communism memorial should be small, reflect Canadian values: survey

A majority of the more than 8,500 people who weighed in on the design of Ottawa's proposed Memorial to the Victims of Communism want a small monument that reflects Canadian values.

Online survey on monument design ran 2 weeks in February, got more than 8,500 participants

Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly says cultural producers face both challenges and opportunities in the digital era. (CBC)

The majority of the more than 8,500 Canadians who filled out an online survey about the planned Memorial to the Victims of Communism in Ottawa said they want a small, intimate design that reminds visitors about Canadian values.

Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly announced the results of the survey Friday afternoon in Ottawa after a roundtable discussion with stakeholders such as city and federal politicians, experts and Tribute to Liberty, the group behind the project.

The survey was available online for two weeks in February and asked questions about the size, message and visitor experience of the memorial, along with an open-ended comment section.

Some questions allowed people to choose two answers.

More than 71 per cent of the 8,547 respondents, or 4,957 people, said they wanted the memorial to "remind visitors about core Canadian values of freedom, democracy and human rights" while about 36 per cent said it should "recognize the experience of Canadians who emigrated from communist countries."

Fifty three per cent of people who filled out the survey, or 3,419 people, said they would prefer "a human-scaled monument set in an intimate environment."

The most popular response for the visitor experience — at 52 per cent or 3,467 people — was that it should be "a place for reflection and contemplation."

"Striking the right balance between having the public's input and also the expert's input was key for us and I'm very happy that all of what was expressed by the public and the experts will be included in making sure we launch the right call for tenders when it comes to the design process," Joly said in a news conference.

Slightly less than half of the survey respondents who indicated where they lived, 47.1 per cent or 3,773 people, said they lived in the National Capital Region.

Plans before NCC board next week

The memorial is a project of the private group Tribute to Liberty and the federal Liberals have committed to fund up to $1.5 million of the $3 million price tag.

Ludwik Klimkowski, chair of the board of Tribute to Liberty, said a good emotional, engaging experience is the best way to teach people. (CBC)

"Not only am I confident that we're moving ahead but I'm also particularly happy with the personal approach of Minister Joly," said Ludwik Klimkowski, chair of the Tribute to Liberty board.

"Her spirit of cooperation and transparency, the freshness of her view… it gives a different dimension to this whole process. I sincerely hope and feel that this is not political and truly non-partisan from now on, that this ambiguity from years past has been truly removed."

The former federal Conservative government backed the proposal to build on land next to the Supreme Court on Wellington Street, using 60 per cent of the plot to build a 14.35 metre tall monument including harsh red lights and a statue of a dead body.

Those plans drew criticism from opposition parties, architectural organizations and other people for the design and the fact that land had been reserved for a new Federal Court building.

The National Capital Commission's board of directors first changed the design plans, then after Joly asked for it to be moved this past December, took away the land use for the property.

"I've lived here for 25 years, nothing gets built in Ottawa pretty quickly," Klimkowski said.

"Every single national memorial or monument has to go through a rather extensive process of rules and regulations because once the memorial is delivered, the anticipation is it will stand there for many many generations to come… so I'd rather we do it once and do it well then come back and redo it at some point in the future."

The redesigned monument is expected to be finished in the Garden of the Provinces and Territories at Wellington and Bay streets by 2018, pending the NCC board of directors' approval on Thursday.

"It's up to the NCC at this point to approve the site location," Joly said.

"On our side, at Canadian Heritage, it will be up to us to include all the comments and prepare the design call for tenders. That's what we'll be doing over the [coming] weeks."

With files from Robyn Miller