Indigenous artist chosen to design Canada's Afghan war monument
Design captures 'intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical aspects of war,' says veterans minister
The federal government has selected an Indigenous artist's design concept for a planned national monument to Canada's mission in Afghanistan.
Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay announced Monday that Adrian Stimson's design won out after many rounds of consultations with the public and stakeholders. He said veterans influenced the choice of final design.
Stimson is a member of the Siksika First Nation in southern Alberta and a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces who served at CFB Esquimalt.
Stimson was sent to Afghanistan through the Canadian Forces Artist Program. He said he tried to capture what he and other Canadians were experiencing in Afghanistan through his art.
Stimson's design for the monument "draws on elements of healing from the Medicine Wheel and takes the form of a circular, sacred space of safety, a home base of reflection, memory and contemplation," says the press release.
"It is made up of four portals, where an interior area is the sanctuary where the fallen are remembered. Inscribed on the walls of three of the quadrants is the year, names of the fallen and maple leaves, in several rows. The fourth southeast quadrant wall facing the direction of Afghanistan is dedicated to fallen Afghan allies. In the centre, four bronze flak jackets stand draped on crosses — utilitarian yet poignant reminders of protection."
"Team Stimson's design captures the intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical aspects of war, from both Canadian and Afghan perspectives," said MacAulay.
Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) said the monument will recognize "an important chapter in Canada's history and pay tribute to the commitment and sacrifice of Canadians in helping to rebuild Afghanistan."
Canada joined the mission in Afghanistan in October 2001 and continued to support military efforts there until March 2014. More than 40,000 Canadian Armed Forces members served in Afghanistan and 159 were killed on missions in theatre during the 13-year operation.
Stimson's design favoured by public
The monument will be built on the LeBreton Flats in Ottawa, near the Canadian War Museum and the National Holocaust Monument.
Consultations on the monument began in January 2020.
According to a Veterans Affairs report, the first phase was an open, online consultation on the objectives, visitor experience and form and character of the monument. This phase received 4,056 responses from across the country – including some from veterans and their family members.
The second phase of the consultation process consisted of two in-person meetings with stakeholder groups in February 2020. Representatives of the VAC Ministerial Commemoration Advisory Group, Pikwàkanagàn First Nation and Kitigan Zibi Anishinābeg First Nation attended these meetings.
The report said stakeholders agreed "that expressing Canada's deep gratitude for the sacrifices made by Canadians who served in Afghanistan should be the most important objective of the Monument."
In May 2021, the federal government asked the public to weigh in again through an online survey, this time on five design proposals selected by a jury.
According to the press release, Team Stimson's concept was a favourite during this part of the consultation process, receiving between 52 and 62 per cent support from over 10,000 responses.
Next steps in the process of creating the monument will involve a detailed development of the selected design and then construction.
VAC said it does not have an anticipated start date for construction but expects it to happen "as soon as possible."
With files from Murray Brewster