Almost a decade after Canada’s combat operations in Afghanistan ended, Veterans Affairs is asking for public feedback on five design proposals for a national monument to commemorate this country’s longest war.
The veterans department has launched an online survey to allow Canadians to evaluate concept art for the memorial, which is expected to be constructed across from the Canadian War Museum in downtown Ottawa.
Almost two years ago, teams of artists, landscape architects, architects and other urban design professionals were invited to provide ideas and samples of their work. A jury of experts settled on five proposals.
The Liberal government conducted consultations with veterans and other interested parties on the elements of the monument. The results of those consultations, published in a report last year, said it should “primarily commemorate and honour the ultimate sacrifice made by those who were killed in Afghanistan.”
Many of those who took part also said the sacrifices of family members should be incorporated into the memorial.
Interestingly, the report also noted that the monument needed to be “impressive” in its size and scope and “should not be less than other monuments because that would indicate that this mission was less significant and that the sacrifice was seen as less significant.”
The public consultation on the design options will last until June 9 — almost 10 years to the day after the army’s last combat operation in Kandahar concluded. Canadian troops, operating in the Panjwaii district, conducted sweeps of contested villages up to June 6, 2011, before turning the sector over to U.S. forces.
The ceremonial end of the five-year combat deployment was marked almost a month later on July 1, 2011.
Four of the five memorial proposals include some form of a wall of remembrance to the 165 Canadian soldiers and civilians who lost their lives.
The groups behind the five designs are Team Daoust, Team Hapa, Team Lashley, Team PFS Studio and Team Stimson.
The fact that there has been no separate national monument to the Afghan war has been a source of controversy and irritation among the roughly 40,000 troops who served and fought there.
A battlefield cenotaph which sat outside of the Canadian headquarters in Kandahar now sits in a purpose-built hall outside of National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa. Public access to it is limited by the security restrictions in place at the complex.
The former Conservative government announced plans in 2015 to build a large, permanent national memorial in downtown Ottawa, but that project became bogged down in disagreements over location.
The matter was resolved a few years ago when The National Capital Commission quietly announced in a news release that a site had been chosen at Lebreton Flats in downtown Ottawa.
The national monument is not expected to be completed until the mid-2020s, at the earliest.