This, as reported by Blair Crawford in the Ottawa Sun, is just plain wrong on too many levels: “Corporate branding will be ‘subtle’ and ‘tasteful’ at new Vimy Ridge centre in France.”
I’m not faulting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau nor Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr for starting this, but they can and should put a stop to it. The business of getting the private sector to “support” public projects is not new and, generally, the public, including me, approves of it: in almost all cases it is good to have commercial sponsorships … almost all. National memorials are different …
… I don’t doubt the generosity or patriotism of Bell Canada or WalMart are anyone else, but a few things have to be sacrosanct, and our national memorials honouring our war dead must be amongst them.
Let is be very clear: it is the visitors’ centre, not the memorial itself that is being rebuilt and I’m guessing that the officials close to the project can see a very big difference between the little visitors’ centre building and the memorial, proper, but I, and many others, do not and will not; If the see even an understated, dignified sign in the visitors’ centre they will likely conclude that a corporation is, now, responsible for the whole monument. From the very first moment one sets foot on the land which France ceded, in perpetuity, to Canada it is “our” place, honouring our war dead and, more broadly, the significance of our contribution to the Great War. It is a small, $10 million, project and I am sure that officials will say that they are only trying to make the best use of their budget so that they can devote more to providing much needed care to veterans by spending less on this little building … and I would, normally, applaud them, but not on this.
But, you might ask, what about e.g. HMCS Sackville, the Canadian Naval Memorial and Battle of the Atlantic Place? Both were, always, private ventures by private trusts ~ supported, sometimes generously by the government, but never intended to replace the Halifax Memorial in Point Pleasant Park (pictured above) which is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, it is the official national memorial for those killed at sea.
I said I don’t blame Minister Hehr for starting this but I will blame him if he doesn’t end it. He needs to go to his cabinet colleagues and say, “This little project and others like it, at our national memorials, need to be funded, 100%, by the people of Canada, in other words by us, the government. But I cannot be asked to move money from programmes that support wounded vets to this sort of thing … it is fine for my department to manage these things but the money needs to come from somewhere else ~ Public Services and Procurement Canada, most likely. We also need to offer good corporate citizens like Bell Canada and Canso Investment other ways to support Canada, and honour our veterans, maybe by offering career transition and job search services or scholarships to veterans, but we really don’t want to turn our national memorials into baseball fields or hockey arenas, do we? Aren’t we a little better than that?“
There are, always, a few things that we, taxpayers, citizens, need to do, ourselves, collectively, through our government: remembering our war dead is one of them. It is only appropriate that we do it ourselves, without commercial sponsorships.