Tribute to Liberty missed fundraising target for victims of communism memorial

The group behind a controversial memorial to victims of communism failed to meet its fundraising target last spring, the CBC News has learned.

Group committed to raise $1.26M for the $5.5M Memorial to the Victims of Communism project

Ludwik Klimkowski, chair of the group behind the Memorial to Victims of Communism, reacts to news that Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly wants the project relocated off a controversial site. (CBC)
  The group behind a controversial memorial to victims of communism failed to meet its fundraising target last spring, the CBC News has learned.

According to documents obtained through access to information, Tribute to Liberty, the proponents of the Memorial to the Victims of Communism, committed to raise $1.26 million as its share of the $5.5 million project in an agreement with the Department of Canadian Heritage.

But by the April 2015 deadline outlined in that agreement, the group reported to a steering committee that it had only raised $900,000.

"We are disappointed that to date only four of the eight pledges of $100,000 each have honoured their pledges," the group's treasurer Alide Forstmarris wrote in an Apr. 22 email to Lorraine Pierce-Hull, the coordinator of commemorations and public art at the heritage department.

Project rebooted last week

The winning design for a monument to victims of communism was criticized for both its scale and location. (Tribute to Liberty)
The memorial project has been controversial — even leading to a lawsuit — over the location, as well as the size of the project. There have also been accusations the project lacked consultation with the City of Ottawa and other stakeholder groups.

Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly decided last week to reboot the project.

Joly nixed the decision to build it next to the Supreme Court of Canada, instead suggesting to the National Capital Commission build it farther west of Parliament Hill, in the Garden of the Provinces and Territories.

The government has committed to absorbing the cost of retendering the design process for the site. Construction for the project has now been capped at $3 million, with Tribute to Liberty and the Department of Canadian Heritage splitting the cost.

The former agreement did not bind Tribute to Liberty to its fundraising commitment.

Ludwik Klimkowski, the chair of TTL, said his group should have no trouble raising the $1.5 million.

Confirmed donors drop

Raising private donations appeared to stall ahead of the federal election campaign as the controversy over the project grew, as suggested by email correspondence and notes from steering committee meetings that included representatives from the government departments, the National Capital Commission and Tribute to Liberty.

The cornerstone of the memorial was a Wall of Remembrance featuring 1,000 names of victims of communism "serving as a symbolic representation of the 100 million lives lost to communism worldwide," according to Tribute to Liberty.

Each name came with a $1,000 price tag, raised by individuals, groups or family members.

Tribute to Liberty reported it had accumulated 481 names in an April email.  But by the May 13 meeting, the notes from the meeting state the group could only confirm under 300.

Klimkowski did not provide an update to that figure when reached on Tuesday, saying he preferred not to give a public number before his meeting with the Heritage Minister next month.

A spokesperson for the Department of Canadian Heritage says the ministry has so far spent $370,000 on "design competition, land surveys and threat/risk assessments for the old site. The National Capital Commission says it has spent $75,000 to help on soil assessment and design, as well as human resources.

"You can forever memorialize the name of a loved one," says the 2014 pitch for donations by Tribute to Liberty seen on its website. (Tribute to Liberty)