A communist memorial seeks capital

Plans to erect a monument commemorating victims of Communist rule face a lack of public interest (and funding)

Alex Ballingall

The group behind an effort to erect a national monument to the victims of Communist regimes is having trouble collecting the cash to do it. Last year, the $1.5-million project, known as the “Monument to the Victims of Totalitarian Communism,” got the go-ahead from Ottawa’s National Capital Commission (NCC). The Conservative government remains vocally supportive (when mentioning the project, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney still leaves off the “totalitarian” qualifier, added in 2009 at the insistence of the NCC); but the monument has yet to receive any government funding, project coordinator Carolyn Foster tells Maclean’s. Now it is up to the group, Tribute to Liberty, to convince the public to foot the bill.

So far, they have received just $100,000 in donations. Most of that, Foster says, has been gobbled up by administrative costs. At this rate, it will be well over a decade before they have enough money to design and build the memorial (a national design contest will be held once about two-thirds of the project’s total cost has been raised). “We’re a very small operation,” says Foster. “We don’t have the money to do big advertising.”

Beside that, much of the difficulty comes from a lack of public understanding about atrocities committed in places like the Soviet Union or Cambodia under Communist rule, she says. “People can’t get their heads around what the project is about,” she says. Atrocities like the Holocaust are simply better known than Communist crimes, which also included the execution of thousands of people without trial, and the forced starvation and deportation of millions more.

Despite the slow pace of fundraising, Foster remains hopeful. “It takes some time,” she says. “It’s not like raising money for a new cancer wing in a hospital.”