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Monday, April 11, 2016

KAF Cenotaph at Former Nortel Site - Does it Make Sense?

By: David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen 

It was recently reported that the memorial to fallen Canadian troops that was once at Kandahar airfield in Afghanistan will be rebuilt in the west end Ottawa by the summer of next year.

The memorial, known as the Kandahar Airfield Cenotaph, will be located on the former Nortel Campus, the new site for National Defence headquarters.

An exact location on the grounds has not yet been decided but the cenotaph is expected to be in place by the summer of 2017, Canadian Forces spokeswoman Lt.-Commander Diane Grover, told Defence Watch.

Grover said that because it is expected that the cenotaph will be within a secure area of the new headquarters site, details still have to be worked out about providing access to the public and families of the fallen.

Some Defence Watch readers, however, have questioned how much visitation by the public the cenotaph will receive once it is rebuilt at the Nortel complex?

For sure, the military and civilian DND staff who operate at the Nortel campus will see the memorial. And the families of the fallen will be sure to visit, although special arrangements will have to be made to provide them with access to the cenotaph which will be enclosed in a glass pavilion.

But since the site is not in downtown Ottawa, it likely won’t be seen by many visitors to the city, or its inhabitants, unless they want to make a special trip to the west end.

There is no question the cenotaph is a powerful one, probably more so than many other military memorials. It has, etched in its black granite, the images of all Canadian military personnel killed in Afghanistan.

In 2011 a military working group recommended that the cenotaph be located on DND property at Dow’s Lake in Ottawa. One of the reasons? That would be the most accessible site for the public as it is a well traveled location, particularly for visitors to the capital.

At the time three Ottawa venues were considered the most serious options as a home for the cenotaph; Beechwood Cemetery, the DND campus at the former Nortel site on Carling Avenue and the Dow’s Lake property, according to a July 2011 briefing note prepared for then army commander Lt.-Gen. Peter Devlin.

“When weighing the criteria, the Memorials WG (working group) considered Sanctity to be the most important, followed by Visibility and Accessibility,” Devlin was told in the documents obtained by Postmedia.

The Dow’s Lake option came out on top, followed very closely by Beechwood Cemetery, according to the briefing. The Nortel Campus was a distant third (even as a location for a new headquarters, military staff have referred to the site in various documents as “isolated.”)

Somewhere along the line all that changed.