Monument City: revisiting three important monuments of the Canadian Capital

Monument City: Memory, National belonging and the social lives of monuments
A reflection on the lecture of the guest speaker Dr. Tonya Davidson, of Briarson University
November 6th 2015.

Dr. Davidson delivered an interesting lecture on the social lives of statues and demonstrated how monuments have the power to both confirm and disrupt dominant narratives of nationhood and belonging. She took for example three important monuments located in the national capital city of Canada namely the National War Memorial, the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights and the Enclave the Women Movement. Dr. Davidson then reflected on how monuments contribute to the production of urban space by the biases of nostalgia, rationalism and protest.

The National War Museum
Dr. Davidson argues that the components of the monuments should change over time since war memories are evolving. The monuments is a representation of what War memories should be for us Canadians. Although, that monument is offering a limited way to remember the war loses. The main focus of the monument is on the Battle of Vimy Ridge and leaves very little space to celebrate the Canadian war effort that is ongoing.Dr.Davidson deplores that the monument focus too much on one element instead of celebrating Canadian war effort as a whole. She also deplores that this monument is unable to evolve with time. The monument is arguably a re-position of the Canadian war memories under the British imperialism and forget the more contemporary Heroes.

Canadian Tribute to Human Right
The monument is a Polish-Canadian initiative and a celebration of all Human rights. When visiting the monument we are invited to walk through it and admire the “House of Canada” on the inside. The walls are ornamented with writings in the First Nation languages of the Ottawa region. The outside is walls have writing in French, English and the first line of the declaration of Human Rights is visible at the top of the monument. The monument is one of the first one in Ottawa to include the First Nation heritage. The monument is a popular “platform” for many groups of protesters. This last point nuance the use of the monument, renders it ambivalent.

Enclave the Women’s Movement
The monument was erected shortly after the “École Polytechnique massacre”. To recall the details of that tragic day, a man open fired on a group of female trade students and killed 14 of them. The tragedy happened in Montreal on December 6, 1989 and was motivated by sexism and a personal fight against feminism. The monument acts as a commemoration of the events but also as a general stand against violence directed at women. The monument is a response to a lack of women and feminism language amongst the other monuments. The monuments also display the name of all the women that were murdered in Ottawa between 1992 and 2000 when the movement had to come to an end due to a lack of space. The spacial limitation cast a shadow on what the monument tried to achieve. At the same time the lack of space is a quiet but powerful reflection on violence against women and the important space it (unfortunately) occupies in our society. The monument is at the heart of many debates and reinforces the idea that systematic violence is hard to assimilate to the culture. It is a powerful symbol for the sex equality debates.

2 thoughts on “Monument City: revisiting three important monuments of the Canadian Capital

  1. If monuments reflect the living and dynamic reality of social change/flux, then why do they take a static form?

    Can monuments really reflect changing social consciousness when they are frozen in time with the immutability of their physical form?

    What would a dynamic monument look like; something that could capture motion and the changeableness of human society?

  2. Should these war statues really be altered to suit the changing memories of past war heroes/figures? Can she really prove that the Vimy Ridge Memorial overshadows all the other memorials that were built at the same time throughout France and Belgium?

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