Victims of communism memorial received donations honouring fascists, Nazi collaborators, according to website

Not good:

A controversial monument being built in Ottawa to honour victims of communist regimes has received donations in honour of known fascists and Nazi collaborators, according to a list posted online by the organization spearheading the project.

The Memorial to the Victims of Communism is being financed partly through a “buy-a-brick” campaign called Pathways to Liberty, which is run by the registered charity Tribute to Liberty.

The campaign sells “virtual bricks” that appear on the organization’s website and in their newsletter. The bricks are dedicated to alleged victims of communism and include biographical notes about the individuals being commemorated.

But some donors seem to be attempting to sanitize the records of known fascists and war criminals.

An organization calling itself the General Committee of United Croats of Canada purchased virtual bricks dedicated to Ante Pavelić, describing him only as a “doctor of laws.”

Pavelić was the wartime leader of the Ustaša, the fascist organization that ran the Independent State of Croatia, a Nazi puppet regime. In this role, Pavelić was the chief perpetrator of the Holocaust in the Balkans. Approximately 32,000 Jews, 25,000 Roma and 330,000 Serbs were murdered by the regime.

If Canada commemorates Ante Pavelić or Roman Shukhevych, it can throw its human rights record right in the trash.– Efraim Zuroff, Simon Wiesenthal Centre

The same organization purchased a brick dedicated to Mile Budak, whom they identified simply as a “poet”. Budak was also a high-ranking Ustaša official.

References to Budak and Pavelić have been removed from the Tribute to Liberty website.

It’s not clear whether the donations were returned; when asked, Ludwik Klimkowski, Tribute to Liberty’s chair, said it would be “premature” to comment. Another Ustaša official, Ivan Oršanić, remains listed on the site.

An organization calling itself the Knightly Order of Vitéz purchased five bricks. “Several members of the order actively participated in the persecution, despoliation and, in 1944, the deportation of the Hungarian Jews,” said László Karsai, a professor of history at the University of Szeged.

Vitéz members included high-ranking members of the Nazi-puppet government established late in the war, which organized the deportation of some 437,000 Hungarian Jews. “It was the biggest, fastest deportation action of the Holocaust,” said Karsai. “Several tens of thousands of Vitéz members got large lands (from) Jewish properties.”

The League of Ukrainian Canadians’ Edmonton Branch, meanwhile, purchased five virtual bricks in honour of Roman Shukhevych — who led the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) during the Second World War and was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Belarusians, Jews, Poles and Ukrainians.

Orest Steciw, executive director of the League of Ukrainian Canadians, told CBC News that while his organization did sponsor bricks for the monument, he cannot name the individuals to whom they were dedicated because he was not the executive director at the time.

“If Canada commemorates Ante Pavelić or Roman Shukhevych,” said Efraim Zuroff, a noted Nazi-hunter and the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem, “it can throw its human rights record right in the trash.”

‘They remember what they want to remember’

The UPA was the armed wing of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists-Bandera faction (OUN-b). Per Anders Rudling, a historian at Lund University in Sweden who has written critically about Shukhevych, said devotees of this “Nazi collaborator” have been working to rehabilitate his image.

“While Shukhevych (and the OUN-b) were antisemitic and totalitarian, most of his admirers today are not,” Rudling told CBC News. “They remember what they want to remember — a sanitized, whitewashed image of a heroic officer.

“Shukhevych was a Nazi collaborator and ethnic cleanser. The units under his command massacred Jews and Poles.

“A monument to the victims of communism is fair and legitimate. Millions of people were murdered by Stalin and Mao, and there is a case to be made for their commemoration. It is peculiar, however, that people who committed genocide are being glorified along with those legitimate victims.”

Klimkowski wouldn’t comment on the specific names listed on the charity’s website.

He said that questions about the individuals being commemorated “are premature” since Tribute to Liberty and the Department of Canadian Heritage are still reviewing the final list of names to be included on the memorial itself. Klimkowski said that process should be finished by December of this year.

Canadian Heritage, meanwhile, said that it’s reviewing the list of names proposed for the monument itself — not the names listed on the charity’s website.

A troubled project

The Victims of Communism memorial project has been beset by problems. The project originally was supposed to cost $1.5 million, to be drawn exclusively from private donations, but the amount of money raised in the early years of the project was so low it barely covered Tribute to Liberty’s operating expenses.

In 2013, the Harper government pledged $1.5 million to the project, a figure that increased to $3 million by 2014. By the end of 2014, the project’s budget had ballooned to $5.5 million, with a taxpayer contribution of $4.3 million.

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada initiated a court challenge of the project, arguing that the National Capital Commission (NCC) violated its own procedures on public consultation and the rules set out in the National Capital Act. A poll from the spring of 2015 found that a majority of Canadians — including nearly two-thirds of self-identified conservatives — opposed the initial project.

A NCC spokesperson said the estimated total cost of the monument is now $7.5 million, with $6 million coming from the federal government after Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland included an additional $4 million in this spring’s budget to complete the monument.

High-level political support

The monument has received letters of support from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, former Green party leader Elizabeth May, former NDP leader Tom Mulcair and former federal justice minister Irwin Cotler.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper purchased several commemorative bricks, as did Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who was the project’s champion while in Harper’s cabinet. Sen. Linda Frum is listed on the monument’s donors page as a legacy donor, having committed over $100,000.

Initially, the Wall of Remembrance was supposed to feature the names of 1,000 victims of communism, but by the end of 2015 a list of only 300 or so names had been compiled. The department said it is now looking at a list of 600 names for possible inclusion in the memorial.

Canadian Heritage hired Carleton University historian Michael Petrou to review those 600 names, but not the names listed on Tribute to Liberty’s website or in its newsletters. Petrou told CBC News there is overlap between the list of names for the monument and the list on the website.

Identifying the collaborators

Petrou filed his report to the department back in the spring. He said he red-flagged the names of individuals in that list of 600 who collaborated with the Nazis or were associated with fascist organizations that were active in Eastern Europe and the Balkans during the Second World War.

Petrou said he also flagged names of individuals who could not reasonably be described as “victims of communism.”

The Pathways to Liberty list seems to embrace a very broad definition of “victims of communism” that extends to other apparent victims of political violence and veterans of Cold War era conflicts.

The list on the website also includes people who don’t seem to be victims of persecution by communist regimes — such as Tara Singh Hayer, a Sikh journalist and activist assassinated in Vancouver in 1998, and Jagat S. Uppal, a successful B.C. businessman who was one of the first Sikhs to attend public school in Vancouver.

Tribute to Liberty’s website and newsletter say that the Pathways to Liberty project features stories about victims of communism, while the Wall of Remembrance will display the names of victims and survivors of communist regimes.

“… Visitors will see names ranging from donors’ own names or those of their ancestors to the names of historical figures and events that are important to these donors,” says a statement from Canadian Heritage, which declined a request for an interview. “These names will be linked to a planned website to be developed and hosted by Tribute to Liberty that will share the stories of these individuals, groups and events.”

Donations to monument closed now, says treasurer

The Tribute to Liberty website indicates that it is still seeking $1,000 donations in exchange for official commemoration on the wall itself and on the website. A link on the charity’s website labelled ‘donate today’ leads to PayPal and an auto-loaded $1,000 donation.

But Tribute to Liberty’s treasurer Alide Forstmanis said donations to the wall are no longer being accepted and the organization is only accepting $200 donations for virtual bricks now.

Klimkowski said in an email that Tribute to Liberty’s fundraising was finished by the end of 2017 and that all the necessary funding was forwarded to the NCC, which is overseeing construction of the monument. A spokesperson for the NCC indicated that Tribute to Liberty sent $1 million in 2017 and another $500,000 in 2018, and has not transferred any additional funds.

‘A broader effort to distort the history of the Holocaust’

Zuroff said he’s alarmed by efforts to present wartime Nazi collaborators as anti-Communist patriots.

“From the beginning of their renewed independence, following the breakup of the Soviet Union, almost all the governments of Eastern Europe — and nationalist elements in diaspora communities — have promoted the canard of equivalency between the crimes of the Third Reich and those of Communism as part of a broader effort to distort the history of the Holocaust and the Second World War,” he said.

Some war memorials in Canada have inspired controversy over their ties to wartime collaborators. A cenotaph dedicated to the veterans of the Waffen-SS ‘Galicia Division’ in an Oakville cemetery made headlines last year when Halton Region police opened a hate crimes investigation after the monument was defaced.

A bust of Roman Shukhevych outside the Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex in Edmonton was tagged with the words ”Nazi scum” in late 2019. Because it was suggested that the act may have been motivated by hatred toward an identifiable group, the Hate Crime and Violent Extremism Unit of the Edmonton Police was tasked with investigating, although it ultimately concluded the vandalism didn’t meet the standard of a hate crime.

Source: Victims of communism memorial received donations honouring fascists, Nazi collaborators, according to website

Mayor to communism memorial backers: ‘This project should be put on hold’ | Ottawa Citizen

Another welcome sign that times have changed following the election:

It’s “highly unlikely” the Memorial to the Victims of Communism will ever be built on the proposed site near the Supreme Court of Canada now that the federal Liberals have swept to power, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson bluntly told the memorial’s backers when he met with them last week.

Watson has been an outspoken critic of the proposed monument’s location on Wellington Street and said Ludwik Klimkowski and Anna Dombrovska — officials from Tribute to Liberty, the charity behind the controversial memorial — clearly knew where he stood when the three met Friday in the mayor’s boardroom.

“I told them in very blunt terms that this project should be put on hold,” Watson said Monday in an interview with the Citizen. “We should have a proper consultation with the broader public, not just inside government, and seek greater consensus on where the monument should be placed.”

“I said, ‘I think you’re going to have to take a little water with your wine and come back with a scaled-back version at a different location that is more acceptable to the community.’”

The mayor says he noted there is virtually no public support for the site in question, and that those expressing concerns have ranged from Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin to members of Parliament and city councillors to renowned architects and community activists.

“I told them that continuing (to push) this site made them tone-deaf,” Watson said, adding there is some consensus that the Garden of the Provinces would be a more appropriate site. But even that location, west of the Supreme Court, would require the monument to be scaled back dramatically, he said.

The mayor says he questioned Klimkowski and Dombrovska on the funding arrangement for the monument, which he characterized as “very mysterious.”

Telling the public how much the project will cost and who is funding it would go a long way to ease the public’s concerns, Watson said.

Despite the presence of eight million people in Canada with links to former or current communist regimes around the world, Tribute to Liberty has struggled to raise its $1.26-million share of the memorial’s $5.5-million cost.

Documents released to the Citizen under access to information in August showed the federal government will pay $4.2 million of the cost — far more than the $3 million it had previously disclosed.

By putting their eggs all in one basket, and using their political connections to run roughshod over any criticism and opposition, the memorial sponsors have only themselves to blame. Noteworthy that the Holocaust memorial attracted little to no controversy.

Source: Mayor to communism memorial backers: ‘This project should be put on hold’ | Ottawa Citizen

And just like that, the NCC’s a problem again: Kate Heartfield

More fall-out of the Government’s efforts to railroad the NCC on the Memorial to Victims of Communism:

No longer reviled and mistrusted, the NCC has done a great job lately at seeking ideas and input. The few political fights in recent years have been a symptom of the still-unresolved contradiction at the heart of the very idea of the NCC. It’s supposed to be a check on politicians (and the people who elect them). But there is a limit, or should be, to what an unelected body can do with any legitimacy.

That contradiction might have evolved into a healthy tension, steering the NCC into a role of wise, independent counsel.

Instead, as with another chamber of sober second thought, the Conservative government chose to manipulate the NCC into doing the government’s bidding. So we have the worst of both worlds: an unelected body doing the bidding of (certain) politicians.

An email from chairman Russell Mills to Kristmanson (released under access to information) shows the NCC felt it didn’t have a say in the new location of the memorial to the victims of communism, because two Tory ministers had already announced it. “There was really no choice but to approve what had already been announced,” Mills wrote.

This despite the fact that Mills acknowledged that opposition to the memorial’s location “likely reflects the view of most thinking people in our community.”

This news led my colleague, Kelly Egan, to wonder, “isn’t it wonderful to know we fly in these esteemed thinkers from across Canada so they can rubber-stamp stupid ideas, cooked up in a partisan kitchen?”

The mayors of Ottawa and Gatineau have asked for representation on the NCC board, which might help prevent future rubber-stamping.

The next minister responsible for the NCC will have a choice: To encourage and respect independent thought at the NCC, or not. If it’s the latter, let’s revisit that abolition idea.

And just like that, the NCC’s a problem again | Ottawa Citizen.

NCC had ‘no choice’ but to approve victims of communism site, Mills email asserts

More email disclosures that are embarrassing to the Government, this time with respect to the Victims of Communism Memorial:

“There was really no choice but to approve what had already been announced,” Mills says in the email to Kristmanson.

“If the NCC board had voted against the site, we would not only have been straying onto the turf of the Public Works department, we would have embarrassed the government in a significant way,” his email says.

While the National Capital Act says the NCC must approve changes to the use of public lands and new “buildings or other work” erected on them, it also gives the federal cabinet the power to give approval if the NCC balks.

Another email from Mills to Kristmanson, dated March 30, 2015, strongly suggests the NCC chair privately opposes the chosen memorial site.

Referring to a letter opposing the memorial’s location he received in March of this year, Mills told Kristmanson the letter writer “is someone whose opinion I respect,” adding: “This likely reflects the view of most thinking people in our community.”

In the letter to Mills, the writer, whose name has been withheld, says he is “deeply disturbed” by the plan to build the memorial near the Supreme Court and asks Mills to use his influence to reverse the decision.

“I know you well enough to know that you probably think this is a bad idea by any definition,” the letter writer tells Mills.

“It is the view of many that the prime minister has seized on this idea, not only to please his political base, but also to make a statement to the court with which he is in an adversarial relationship,” the writer continues.

Allowing the decision to stand, he says, “will lead to the conclusion that the NCC — intended to be a non-partisan agency — has become a willing agent of the governing party.”

Though Mills has not spoken out publicly against the memorial’s location, he was one of only three NCC board members in June to vote against allowing soil decontamination work to start on the site.

NCC had ‘no choice’ but to approve victims of communism site, Mills email asserts | Ottawa Citizen.

Planning guru Larry Beasley on a monumental controversy

Good and interesting interview on how the Government’s political politicization of the memorial differed from the normal practice, fuelling the controversy:

Q: So what changed? What went wrong in the case of the victims of communism memorial?

Two things happened. One is that, several years ago, the responsibility for managing the conceptualization, as well as the implementation of monuments, moved away from the National Capital Commission, which is one step removed from government, and shifted over to [the Department of Canadian Heritage].

Second, in more recent times, the governments of the day have been more interested in using monuments and memorials to communicate themes. In the past, memorialization was not so much a part of the government’s communications strategy. Some of the more recent memorials have been sponsored by the government and have been communication vehicles for government.

Q: Such as?

The 1812 memorial on Parliament Hill, for example, is a good indication. That was a part of a whole communications program the government has. I’m not trying to interpret the politics of why that was the case, but it was the case.

Q: The process was less political in the past?

In the past, what tended to happen is that organizations would come to the NCC. The NCC has a very well-articulated policy on the location of monuments according to their stature, saving certain sites for the primary monuments of the country, identifying sites where monuments were appropriate. That was managed through the NCC, at arm’s length from government, working with the sponsoring organizations.

In recent years, there have always been competitions, truly independent panels, the advice of our committee, and other kinds of advice. The projects then move forward.

Q: And that didn’t happen in the case of the victims of communism memorial?

As I understand it, the monument is basically sponsored by the government and has been implemented through a department of the government. The NCC is put in the position of an approval authority, but it’s much more constrained than if it was managing the project from the beginning.

Planning guru Larry Beasley on a monumental controversy.

Tory MP sees ‘wiggle room’ in site for victims of communism memorial

Trial balloon by Galipeau? Pre-election local candidate positioning? But Minister Polievre is the lead minister and responsible for Ottawa and has, typically, showed no flexibility.

I’m with Jen Gerson of the National Post: use this site for a memorial to the victims of the residential schools given that this is a fully Canadian historical tragedy, that haunts us still:

Throughout the ongoing controversy over the proposed Memorial to the Victims of Communism, opponents have focused on its prominent location on Wellington Street and its destructive impact on the Long Term Vision and Plan for the parliamentary and judicial precincts.

But according to Conservative MP Royal Galipeau, who has represented Ottawa-Orléans since 2006, the site for the memorial has yet to be finalized.

“It’s nowhere right now,” Galipeau said in an interview. “It’s planned to be on Wellington Street between the Library and Archives and the justice building. There’s a lot of wiggle room there.”

Galipeau confirmed that he has privately urged the government to locate the memorial a bit further west on Wellington, on a site closer to Library and Archives Canada — an idea he had not previously shared publicly.

“Since I don’t sit on the opposition side of the house,” he explained, “I generally don’t make my recommendations to the government by way of the media. I work in a way to bring results.”

Galipeau wouldn’t comment on the current status of his suggestion, saying only: “I think that after the monument is built, the people who oppose the monument no longer will. That much I can say.

“I suspect that everyone is getting their knickers in a snit for nothing. The monument will be of the right scale and will be located in a manner that it will not impede the architecture of the Supreme Court.”

Galipeau’s comments followed a call to the Citizen from Ludwik Klimkowski, the chair of Tribute to Liberty, the charity that proposed the monument and is raising money for it.

Stressing that he was not speaking for the government, Klimkowski floated the “purely hypothetical” idea of leaving the memorial where it is and designating the more westerly site eyed by Galipeau for a future Federal Court building.

The current Long Term Vision and Plan calls for the Federal Court building to be built on the 5,000-square-metre site on Wellington Street the government has publicly earmarked for the memorial.

Tory MP sees ‘wiggle room’ in site for victims of communism memorial | Ottawa Citizen.

Chianello: Communism memorial’s saga spotlights Tories’ poor process

More on the proposed memorial to visitors of communism and the Government’s railroading over process and lack of broader consultation:

The official Long Term Vision and Plan is a comprehensive and sensitively designed development strategy for the Parliamentary Precinct, the Judicial Precinct and Library and Archives Canada. It’s not meant to be a rigid to-do list, but a framework for making decisions, ensuring that future developments “make a positive contribution to the total composition of the Precincts, while avoiding negative impact on the landscape.”

It’s hard to see how the proposed memorial will do any of these things. Kenney may insist that the massive, brutalist design for the memorial will be “more like a park,” but two dozen of the country’s most prominent architects have decried the plans, not to mention the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the mayor, and pretty much every architectural and planning organization in the country.

Ottawa’s city council will debate and likely pass a motion next week asking the federal government to relocate the proposed memorial because it would violate the guiding principles of the government’s plan.

“I believe fundamentally that due process has to be followed,” says Dewar, “so development can be protected from the whims of any political interference.”

If you care about the outcome, you need to care about the process. But this Conservative cabinet seems to care mostly about the political outcome, and has thus managed this memorial with an opaque, political process.

Chianello: Communism memorial’s saga spotlights Tories’ poor process

Conservatives rally for communism memorial as Vietnamese Canadians mark Journey to Freedom Day

Making the politics involved even more transparent:

Canada’s minister of state for democratic reform told a crowd of Vietnamese Canadians gathered to commemorate the inaugural Journey to Freedom Day that opposition to the prominent downtown site planned for a memorial for the victims of communism was “shameful” and that the controversial monument will get built.

“It is shameful that the Liberals and the NDP have come out against building this monument at this site, and it is shameful that some in the media have done the same. This is a worthy project, it is the right thing to do, and under the strong leadership of Prime Minister Harper, we will build this monument,” Pierre Poilievre told more than 500 people at a rally on the downtown site chosen for the monument across from the Supreme Court and fronting onto Wellington Street.

Poilievre’s sentiments were echoed by Ludwik Klimkowski, board chair for Tribute to Liberty, the group fundraising to build the monument.

The monument’s prominent location has drawn criticism and opposition from the likes of Mayor Jim Watson, Ottawa architect Barry Padolsky, Shirley Greenberg, an architect who was on the jury that chose the winning design, and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.

Conservatives rally for communism memorial as Vietnamese Canadians mark Journey to Freedom Day | National Post.

The monumental politics behind Ottawa’s newest memorials

Good piece on the history of the Holocaust and Communism memorials and the Government over-riding experts, particularly with respect to site location:

The advisory committee on which Bedford serves is chaired by Larry Beasley, Vancouver’s retired director of planning, and arguably the biggest star in Canadian urban planning circles. Beasley is now a University of British Columbia professor, and heads an international consulting firm. (He was not available to comment when the version of this article that appears in the print edition of Maclean’s was being written, but has responded by email to questions for this updated online version.) Not only did Beasley confirm that his advisory committee concluded that “the chosen site was not a good site, and that it was needed for a higher priority government purpose over the next few years,” he added that, beyond the location issue, the committee didn’t like the winning design, by ABSTRAKT Studio Architecture of Toronto.  “We did not vote on the actual design, but the selected one was not the one the majority of our group preferred, as advisers on the urban design aspects only,” Beasley said.

Asked why the government ignored or rejected the advice of Beasley’s committee, particularly on the site for the memorial, a spokesman for the Department of Canadian Heritage said in an email: “The National Capital Commission’s role in this project is not to advise or approve a location but to oversee the design competition.” That description of the NCC’s function seems more limited than is suggested by the commission’s own website, where the role of Beasley’s committee is described as providing advice on “long-range plans and policies for the use of public lands and properties in Canada’s Capital Region; design proposals affecting these federal lands; [and] real property matters.”

The future court building previously slotted for the contested site was to have been named after Pierre Elliott Trudeau—hardly a mark in its favour for the Conservatives. Soon after the election of the Harper government in 2006, the memorial alternative gained powerful political backers, particularly Employment Minister Jason Kenney, who also spearheads Harper’s political outreach to ethnic communities. Tribute to Liberty, the private group formed in 2008 to support the memorial, is led by Canadians who immigrated from former communist countries in Eastern Europe, as well as Asia, communities Kenney has tirelessly courted.

The Holocaust Monument site, a short walk west beyond the built-up Parliament Hill area, has attracted no significant criticism. Both Bedford and Abel said this site—next to the Canadian War Museum in an open area slated for major new development—is far more suitable than the location for the Victims of Communism memorial. Still, its ultimate popularity is not guaranteed. The monument is expected to cost $8.5 million, with Ottawa matching up to $4 million in private donations. The design calls for six slanting triangular concrete segments, suggesting a broken Star of David, enclosing a space big enough for 1,000 people to gather. Its key designer is Daniel Libeskind, the Polish-American architect, perhaps best known to Canadians for his jutting addition to Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, called the “Crystal,” which opened to mixed reviews in 2007, and has not proven to be a conspicuous hit with the public.

With Canadian Heritage saying that “major elements” of both monuments are slated to be largely completed by fall, this highly visible aspect of Harper’s legacy seems assured no matter who wins this year’s federal election. The verdict that matters most will be rendered by visitors, when they decide whether or not to add two sombre stops to the must-see circuit of Ottawa landmarks.

The monumental politics behind Ottawa’s newest memorials – Macleans.ca.