Ontario government honours veterans with new memorial
The new Veterans' Memorial, built on the northwest quadrant of the grounds of the legislative assembly, commemorates the sacrifices and duties undertaken by Canada's men and women who have served, and continue to serve their country in times of war and peace. The memorial will be a legacy forever on the grounds of the Queen's Park legislature.
The memorial is a 30-metre (100-feet) long granite wall engraved with scenes from Canada's war history from Confederation to the present day. Poetic text contributions have been added from author Jane Urquhart on a bronze wall insert and documentary text by military historian Jack Granatstein includes a list of significant conflicts and peace support missions involving Canada's Canadian Forces. A memorial maple tree has been planted behind the wall in alignment with the midpoint bronze panel. Known for its bright red fall colour, the tree symbolizes the sacrifice of the soldiers and the annual falling of leaves represents human loss in past and continuing conflicts.
As well, the monument is oriented in an east-west direction, facing south, to allow views of the legislature to the north, as a backdrop to the memorial. The dimensions, materials and construction techniques used during its construction are as follows:
- Approximately 30 metres in two connecting sections and comprised of solid granite tablets etched with scenes from Canada's war history.
- Height at the centre of the wall is 2.6 metres (eight feet six inches)
- Ends of the wall have a minimum height of 2.2 metres (seven feet two inches)
- Height at the back of the wall is 1.1 metres (three feet seven inches) above the existing grade
- Polished granite coping runs along the top of the wall and extends along its full length
- Ends of the wall are finished with sheet bronze with text. Poetic text divides the imagery of war service with Cold War and peace support duties in the middle of the wall.
- One section of the wall has an eight per cent batter forward, while the other has an eight per cent batter backward
- Wall finish combines polished (shiny) and flamed (matte) surfaces. A bronze reveal runs the entire length of the front of the wall between the top granite pieces and the art panels
- Wall structure has a concrete core. Three cast-in-place concrete walkways three metres (nine feet eight inches) in width connect the memorial plaza to the adjacent existing surrounding pathways
- Bronze panel located at the intersecting point of the two wall sections forming a corner with Jane Urquhart text etched into metal
- Stone paved gathering area extends from the base of the wall and is triangular in shape
- Plaza width extends from a minimum of three metres (nine feet eight inches) to a maximum of 12 metres (39 feet) south from the base of the wall
- Paved in large-scale granite stones set on concrete
- Gently sloping to the wall with drains at the base of the wall
- Maple leaf pattern is sand blasted into selected areas of the granite paving.
- Stone seating ledge along the south side of the plaza directly across from the memorial
- Granite bench is approximately 18 metres long (59 feet), 500 millimetres high (22 inches), and one metre deep (three feet two inches)
- Constructed of solid polished granite.
Documentary Panel/Dedication Plaque
- Located at the east end of the seat wall
- Approximately 2.4 metres (seven feet eight inches) wide x 0.75 metres (two feet four inches) high
- Solid granite with a polished finish
- Text panel explains the meaning behind the memorial and art components
The Lawn and Landscaping Features
- Front lawn slopes gently down to the south from the legislature under a canopy of trees
- Lawn on north side of memorial is level along the length of the wall parapet.
- Aligned with the bronze panel at the wall's midpoint, a red maple has been planted to symbolize the sacrifice of the soldiers
- Small planting beds soften the edge of the walkways and proposed wing walls.
The Designing of a Veterans' Memorial
The Veterans' Memorial initiative was first announced in 2002 by the Ontario government and was to be located at the northwest corner of College Street and Queen's Park Circle. In June 2004, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced the government would instead construct a military veterans' memorial on the front lawn of Queen's Park - the place of highest honour. The decision to locate the monument on the front lawn was agreed upon by all three political parties and the Speaker of the legislature. It is the first time in 66 years that a structure has been placed on the Queen's Park grounds.
The Veterans' Memorial Advisory Committee, established in May 2004, was created to undertake this initiative. Co-chaired by Major-General Richard Rohmer (Ret.) and Minister of Government Services Gerry Phillips, the 17-member advisory committee comprises active military personnel and veterans who also hold executive membership on various organizations including the Juno Beach Association, and The Royal Canadian Legion and the Archivist of Ontario. The committee agreed that a fair and equitable competition would result in the best design possible and took steps to ensure the integrity of the process was upheld at all times. One of Canada's leading art consultants, Karen Mills of Mills & Mills Consulting Services Inc., was selected to provide expertise to the project.
In June 2005, a final design was selected by the advisory committee, which then recommended it to the legislature for all party approval, which was given. Advice and support throughout that process were provided by the Speaker and Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, as well as the Sergeant-At-Arms.
The advisory committee chose a well-known Canadian war artist and a prominent landscape architectural firm to design the memorial. The team of Allan Harding MacKay and Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg was selected following a nationwide competition held by the Veterans' Memorial Advisory Committee. The design team oversaw the development of the memorial and implemented landscaping as set out in the approved design plan. Canadian historian Jack Granatstein provided expertise to the advisory committee in the selection of images regarding the representations of wartime and peacekeeping activities, and renowned Canadian author Jane Urquhart contributed poetic text for inclusion in the memorial design.
The construction of the wall, and surrounding landscaping, began in December 2005 and was completed in August 2006.