Yesterday, November 11, 2020, the Ontario government unveiled a Memorial to Honour Canadian Heroes of the War in Afghanistan. This permanent tribute delivers on the government’s commitment to commemorate the valour and sacrifice of the veterans, active members of the Canadian Armed Forces and their families, including those who served in recent wars.
Premier Doug Ford was joined on the grounds of Queen’s Park by the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Brigadier-General Conrad Mialkowski, Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald, Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, and Major-General David Fraser (retired) to unveil the new monument and observe a moment of silence for Canada’s fallen heroes.
“As Premier, I made a promise to the people of Ontario to build this memorial as a permanent reminder of those Canadian heroes who served in the War in Afghanistan, and today on Remembrance Day, we keep that promise,” said Premier Ford. “We remember their sacrifice, we grieve with the loved ones of the fallen, and we thank them for their service to our province and to our country. God bless all our veterans, our active service members, and their families.”
A consultation led by General Rick Hillier (retired) provided advice and input on the design of the memorial to ensure the sacrifices of the brave men and women who served in the War in Afghanistan are commemorated in modern Canadian military history. The memorial’s design complements and connects to the Ontario Veterans’ Memorial, which was completed in 2006.
“This memorial embodies our province’s great respect for those who bravely answered the call to serve our country in the name of peace and freedom,” said Minister MacLeod. “Our government is proud that this monument will stand as a lasting legacy here at Queen’s Park, giving all Ontarians a space to show our gratitude to this generation of heroes.”
“It was a privilege to support the creation of this tribute to those incredible Canadians who served in the Afghanistan war from 2001 to 2014,” said General Rick Hillier (retired). “Our veterans, our fallen soldiers and their families deserve our recognition, and our profound respect, appreciation and pride. From today forward, this memorial will be a touchstone for veterans of Afghanistan, their families and the people of Ontario and all of Canada.”
“The Ontario Afghanistan Memorial honours those who were lost during the more than 12-year long mission in Afghanistan,” said Brigadier-General Conrad Mialkowski. “This memorial will serve to pay tribute to the legacy of those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live in peace here in Canada. It recognizes their courage, valour and dedication to their country. Here, Canadians will be able to pay their respects to our fallen and remember them.”
Earlier this week, Ontario announced an investment of $511,100 in Helmets to Hardhats to support military veterans and reservists returning to civilian life. In addition, the government is investing $200,000 and providing land to help the Homes for Heroes Foundation create up to 25 tiny homes for military veterans experiencing homelessness.
The government also recently announced a $3 million commitment in support of the Valour Games, a new national multi-sport competition for wounded, ill and injured Canadian military personnel and veterans. The inaugural event will be hosted in Ottawa in 2022.
The Memorial to Honour Canadian Heroes of the War in Afghanistan was designed to complement the existing Ontario Veterans’ Memorial and create a seamless timeline of Canada’s military history. The memorial’s design features granite and bronze elements that tell the story of Canada’s involvement in the Afghanistan conflict through imagery and symbolism.
Maple Leaf Pattern
A fallen maple leaf pattern inlaid within the pavement will connect the two memorials and represent a continuation of time. This pattern of bronze leaves will create a pathway from the existing memorial wall to the new memorial.
A granite bench on the west side will mark the beginning of the new memorial. It will give visitors a place to take a moment to remember and show gratitude to the 158 fallen members of the Canadian Armed Forces who did not return from Afghanistan.
When viewed from the south, the end of the existing memorial wall and the beginning of the new memorial will create a subtle frame. The view through this frame centres on imagery of Canadian operations in Afghanistan on the Ontario Veterans’ Memorial. When viewed together, the tall bronze elements that create the view-frame are reminiscent of the twin towers before terrorists attacked the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001.
A continuous piece of bronze will bend and fold into seven vertical elements, representative of Canada’s involvement in the conflict.
When viewed from the north of the memorial, the shape of the ribbon-like bronze will resemble the silhouette of Afghanistan’s mountainous landscape.
The sharply angled folds of the memorial’s form will mimic the deep, shadowed valleys and steep gullies that characterize Afghanistan’s rough terrain. This landscape contributed to the daily challenges faced by Canadian troops throughout the conflict.
Images etched into the peaks of bronze will further tell the story of Canada’s involvement in the conflict from October 2001 to March 2014. The rough, rocky landscape of Afghanistan will inspire the texture of the bronze and ground below.
A stone from an Inukshuk, which was dedicated to the fallen and erected by Canadian soldiers at Kandahar Airfield, will be incorporated into the existing granite bench. Visitors will be able to touch this stone and physically connect to its source, almost 11,000 km away.
Theme words will be used throughout the memorial — 18 in total — to give further meaning to Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan. These words are: pride, friendship, solidarity, duty, resilience, dedication, courage, sacrifice, spirit, commitment, service, unity, camaraderie, home, family, compassion, hope and remembrance.