OTTAWA — The federal government hopes it has finally locked down a new location for a promised national memorial for the war in Afghanistan, with a Veterans Affairs Canada source telling The Canadian Press that there is only one hurdle left before consultations on a design begin.
The new site is across the street to the east of the Canadian War Museum and behind the National Holocaust Monument, near where the Ottawa River separates Ontario from Quebec, said the source who spoke on condition of anonymity because the new location has not been officially announced.
A group of veterans recently toured the new site with department officials, the source said.
Veterans Affairs is now expected to ask the National Capital Commission to approve the location in the coming weeks and, if successful, launch consultations with veterans for a design.
The plan to erect a memorial to Canada’s war in Afghanistan was first announced by Stephen Harper’s government in May 2014 following the end of the 13-year mission.
More than 40,000 Canadians served in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014. More than 160 were killed while thousands were left with physical and psychological injuries and trauma.
The national monument was supposed to have been completed in 2017, but a number of veterans spoke out against the location the Conservatives initially chose at Richmond Landing, near the Royal Canadian Navy Monument along the Ottawa River. Among the concerns was the site was isolated and difficult to reach, particularly in winter and for veterans with accessibility challenges.
Members of the veterans’ community instead overwhelmingly backed a different location to the immediate west of the war museum, which was one of four sites proposed by Veterans Affairs.
But the war museum and its architect, Raymond Moriyama, opposed that site, saying the institution intentionally avoids emphasizing any one conflict and that the memorial would detract from the building’s design.
“Furthermore, the addition of a commemorative monument to any one conflict or mission is certain to attract other such requests, further impacting that architectural vision,” the war museum said in June 2017.
When faced with these competing positions in September 2017, the National Capital Commission deferred the decision — leaving the project in limbo.
Veterans Affairs Canada has not asked the war museum for its thoughts on the latest site, according to the source, and museum spokeswoman Josee Prevost said the institution was unaware of a possible new location.
Retired major Mark Campbell, who lost both legs while serving in Afghanistan, welcomed news a new site has been selected, adding that a national memorial for the war has taken too long.
“I think it’s incredibly important that Canada have a national monument — a touchstone if you will — for veterans of that war and for Canadians who remember the sacrifices of that conflict,” Campbell said Monday.
“Being overdue as it is, I wouldn’t want to see a rush job put on the monument, necessarily. But I would like to see it move up the priority list for everyone concerned to get on with.”