Mon. Feb 26th, 2024

Monument: Ottawa ignored the choice of the jury despite the “risks to its reputation”” /></p>
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<p class=This project, chosen by the government for the National Memorial to Canada's Mission in Afghanistan, was designed by a team led by Adrian Stimson, veteran and member of the Siksika First Nation.

  • Daniel Leblanc (View profile)Daniel Leblanc

Voice synthesis, based on artificial intelligence, makes it possible to generate a spoken text from written text.

The federal government knew it was courting controversy last year by awarding the contract for a national monument to a group that lost the design competition.

According to an internal memo from 2023, Ottawa suspected that its decision related to the construction of the new memorial to the mission in Afghanistan would receive a mixed reception from the public.

The government cited, among other things, risks to its reputation after deciding not to award the design contract to the Quebec group which had been chosen by a jury of experts. Rather, it was another project, submitted by an Indigenous artist from Alberta, which was selected by the federal government, despite numerous notices highlighting a violation of the competition rules.

The government could be criticized for not having followed the acquisition process and for having rejected the jury's decision, the Ministry of Veterans Affairs noted in 2023.

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This project, carried out by the Daoust team from Quebec, was chosen by a group of experts, but was then rejected by the federal government.

With this monument, Ottawa aims to commemorate Canada's mission in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014, during which 158 Canadian soldiers and seven civilians died .

However, officials noted, among several policy considerations, that the controversy surrounding the contracting process could have negative repercussions for the families of the deceased.

Veterans of the mission may feel a lack of respect that the Government of Canada did not follow due process, adds the document released under the Access to Information Act.< /p>

Ottawa's fears have since been borne out, with the proposed construction of the monument having been criticized by all opposition parties in the House of Commons.

Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus fears that the monument will fail to attract the support of those it aims to honor. More than 40,000 Canadians have served in Afghanistan, mostly military personnel, but also government employees and humanitarian groups.

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Pierre Paul-Hus, conservative MP and former soldier

When we see that a monument dedicated to the memory of the soldiers and civilians who participated in the war in Afghanistan is violated in this way, it just discredits the whole process and it makes people will not recognize themselves in this monument, said Pierre Paul-Hus in an interview.

He fears that the file has been marked by political interference and still hopes that the Quebec group will inherit the contract.

We do not understand why the government decided to choose a monument other than the one chosen by a jury of experts. This taints the monument dedicated to Afghanistan for several years, I believe.

Luc Desilets, Bloc Québécois MP, says the government has two choices in this matter: award the contract to the winners of the competition or restart the award process. Otherwise, it is the credibility of this competition, but also of future competitions, which is at stake, he said.

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Luc Désilet, Bloc MP

Veterans went to fight in Afghanistan for democracy, world peace, and [ … ] the government has not even been able to respect its own rules. It's undemocratic, the way they operate.

A quote from Luc Desilets, member of the Bloc Québécois

He adds that he struggles to understand why the government made this decision knowing that it would have a negative impact on veterans and their families.

I find it embarrassing. Then from the moment it was made public, I find that the government loses face, he assesses.

According to the decision of a jury of seven people in 2021, the design contract for the monument should have been awarded to a team from Quebec, made up of architects Renée Daoust and Luca Fortin, as well as former judge Louise Arbor. /p>

The federal government offered compensation of more than $30,000 to the group after it decided not to award it the contract. The Daoust group did not accept the money and is still trying to enforce the conclusions of the jury which awarded it first place.

Based on the findings of an unscientific survey, the government instead decided to award the contract to the Stimson Group, citing the fact that the design was more popular among Canadians who served in Afghanistan and their families.< /p>

This group is led by Adrian Stimson, an artist who accompanied the Canadian mission to Afghanistan in 2010.

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Artist Adrian Stimson presents the concept of the National Memorial Canada's mission in Afghanistan.

The proposal from the Daoust team symbolizes the fight for democracy (New window), positioning itself on an axis between the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Parliament. The Stimson team's design more directly references the military mission in Afghanistan, with the focal point of the monument being four helmets and body armor on crosses (New window).

The monument's budget was set at $3 million, but the government expects the final bill to be higher.

Since the announcement of the award of the contract to the Stimson team, the federal government denied wanting to respect the wishes of the military and their families in the choice of the monument.

Just over 12,000 Canadians responded to an online survey that featured finalists in the design competition for the new monument, with more than 3,000 saying they served in Afghanistan and another 3,000 saying they were associated with the mission.

They voted, by a large majority, in favor of Adrian Stimson's project.

Just because it is not a scientific investigation does not mean it is not valid. We still heard the opinions of 12,000 Canadians, said Veterans Affairs Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor last fall.

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Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Veterans Affairs.

We have a debt to these veterans that we will never be able to fully repay. Therefore, choosing the design that best fits the monument that veterans and those who played a role in the mission in Afghanistan want was the least we could do, she argued.

Reached by email, Adrian Stimson indicated that he did not want to comment on the selection process. He recently visited the site in Ottawa where the monument should be built.

One of the seven jury members, military historian Lee Windsor, expressed his joy last June when he learned that the government had opted for the Stimson team's design over the Daoust team.

Whoooooohooooooo! You make my year! Maybe even my decade!!!!! he wrote to a senior official who had just informed him of the government's decision.

The University of New Brunswick professor told Radio-Canada this week that he was giving his opinion as a member of the Department of Veterans Affairs' commemoration advisory group.

The advisory group insisted that the voice and will of veterans must be at the heart of the monument's design, it said. Veterans should be able to recognize themselves in this monument and feel that their opinions were respected and heard.

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