Wanted: New home for an old Royal Canadian Legion war memorial
'It should never be put away in a warehouse somewhere ... hidden till they can find a proper spot'
A 7.5-metre, solid granite cenotaph that weighs at least a tonne is in search of a good home.
The monument has been on the front lawn of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 3 in south Etobicoke since 1983, but now the branch is closing — a victim of the dwindling membership that has affected branches across Canada — and the land is up for sale.
"It's quite a huge cenotaph," branch president Bill Bouchard said. "It was donated by the community many, many years ago and now that we're amalgamating with another branch, we feel it should be kept in the community."
The question is, where?
Longtime legion member Kevin McLean, who served in the Canadian Forces in the 1970s, agreed that the monument has become an integral part of the New Toronto community and should remain there.
"It should never die," he told CBC Toronto Tuesday. "It should never be put away in a warehouse somewhere, to be hidden till they can find a proper spot for it.
"This is part of the lifeblood of the community."
But Bouchard said not just any site will do.
"Most definitely you wouldn't want it in front of a restaurant or a bar," he said. "You want it where services can be held and you have enough room for people to gather in front of it."
He agreed the cenotaph has been a gathering place for generations of residents in the community — long before it arrived at Branch 3 — and he's also adamant that it remain in the area.
3 potential sites ID'd
The problem is, no one has been able to find a new, permanent home for the cenotaph.
Bouchard has suggested three potential sites: the lawn of the Toronto Police College, on nearby Birmingham Street; the LAMP community centre, which is close, or the grounds of a new school near Lake Shore Boulevard West and Royal York Road.
But so far, nothing is carved in stone.
Coun. Mark Grimes, who represents the area, presented a motion that city council passed last week calling on staff to look into where the cenotaph should go and how to move it.
MPP Peter Milczyn called the cenotaph "an important part of our local history" and suggested that once a buyer of the property is found, "the city should try and extract some funding from them to move this important part of our heritage."
Milczyn said he favours moving the structure to the police college because that building is also a military facility for the Toronto Scottish Regiment.
MP James Maloney said he has been in touch with Veterans Affairs Canada, which makes money available to communities to maintain military monuments. He hopes they'll agree to pay for the move.