Memorial to the Victims of Communism

Progress slowed by pandemic

Tribute to Liberty (TTL), established in 2008, is a Canadian charity whose mission is to establish a Canadian memorial to commemorate the victims of Communism. TTL is governed by a nine member volunteer board of directors who represent key ethno-cultural communities in Canada affected by Communism in their homelands: Armenian, Belarusian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Cambodian, Chinese, Croatian, Cuban, Czech, Estonian, Finnish, Georgian, German, Hungarian, , Korean, Laotian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Mennonite, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovakian, Slovenian, Tibetan, Ukrainian, Vietnamese.

In September 2009, the National Capital Commission (NCC) granted approval to TTL to build a memorial called The Memorial to the Victims of Communism – Canada, a Land of Refuge in the National Capital Region. A major memorial on National Capital Region land required a national design competition. The winning design team consists of Paul Raff, Artist and Architect, Paul Raff Studio Incorporated, with
The Planning Partnership’s Michael A. Ormston-Holloway, Designer and Certified Arborist, Brett Hoornaert, Landscape Architect, and Luke Kairys, Landscape Architect,

The Memorial to the Victims of Communism will memorialize the experience of millions of Canadians, and their families, who suffered as a result of Communism. It will raise Canadian and international awareness of “the most colossal case of political carnage in history” 

The Memorial in Ottawa’s Garden of Provinces at Wellington and Bay Streets is a three-dimensional “calendar” that captures every hour of the day, for every day in a year, by giving substance to the angles of the sun. It commemorates all the potential moments in time relevant to its themes and visitors. The focus of the Memorial is a sweeping, dynamic sculptural array, 21 m long and nearly 4 m high, oriented to open to the north. The sculpture  is split along the north/south axis, and is divided into east/west sections.  Along its length, a fine vertical “veil” of 365  stainless steel fins supports 4412 bronze rods, each 1.2 m long and describes a unique angle of the sun, one for each hour of every day in a year. The Memorial sculpture sits on a limestone plinth, with cascading steps that rise from the paved forecourt that serves as the gathering area.

The memorial is divided in the middle at the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, inviting visitors to step through in a metaphorical journey from darkness and oppression to lightness and liberty. At a distance, the sculptural array of bronze rods expresses the vastness of the suffering of individuals under communist regimes. Up close, the memorial invites visitors to reflect on their own experiences.

The Dedication Message,  Donor Recognition and Mosaic of Names are presented as bronze panels on freestanding stone walls, integrated into the Memorial design. The Dedication Message faces the gathering area, presenting a focal point for public commemorative events. The Donor Recognition and Mosaic of Names are located to the south of the Plaza, to be seen against the backdrop of park and river views, anchoring the less formal and contemplative side of the Memorial.

The design presents a formal monument  in a mature park setting, enhancing  this  long-established urban tableau  with new and unique landmark. The memorial’s welcoming form will be highly visible from Wellington Street and from within the park. The dramatic form of the memorial will integrate with and complement  the suite of contemporary monuments currently being added to the National Capital Commission Region.

“The Memorial’s powerful form reflects the horrific magnitude  of wrong-doing. At the same time, its approachable form conveys a deeply elegiac and somber tone, drawing us forward in history by invoking gratitude and optimism for the present. It creates a meaningful gathering area intended  for contemplation, offering a place for community and individual mourning.”

The Memorial is composed with planted landscape accents, which frame an elegant backdrop for gatherings to the north and east  side. Understated plantings along the east and west side of the Memorial seamlessly unite the crisp geometry of the limestone plinth with the naturalistic design of the park. Project lighting subtly illuminates the Memorial during the evening, and is designed to be environmentally efficient and appropriate for this setting. All areas within the Memorial are universally accessible from the existing park path system. All materials within the Memorial are extremely robust.

Fabrication and installation of the bronze art element is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2022. Unveiling was initially forecasted for autumn 2022, however pandemic closures have delayed various portions of the schedule.

Today,  in light of the invasion of Ukraine, the Memorial will be even more meaningful, prompting visitors to reflect on the meaning of liberty and remind them that the core Canadian values must continue to be vigilantly protected.