Ontario’s War Memorial at Queen’s Park

Unbuilt Toronto 2 has an interesting chapter on the long wait for an Ontario war memorial. One was originally planned after World War One as a monument to the casualties of that war, but the inability to find a good site downtown meant the plan collapsed. Instead, memorial ceremonies were held in front of a temporary cenotaph outside Toronto’s City Hall. That became the site of a permanent cenotaph erected by the City in 1925, to a design clearly inspired by the simple lines of what Edward Lutyens designed for London, England. A memorial tablet and book of honour were added to City Hall’s interior in 1947, and in 1984 the City cenotaph was rededicated to honor the dead of World War Two and the Korean War as well (and further rededicated in 2006 to include Canada’s peacekeepers).

The Government of Ontario itself only got its war memorial in 2006, when the Ontario Veterans Memorial was unveiled at Queen’s Park. The images on the 100′ granite wall take the viewer from the Fenian Raids to the twenty-first century (ONTLA’s website has a guide to the images). The inscription was provided by Jane Urquhart, who is no stranger to the stories of Canada’s wars (see this interview, where she talks about studying World War One for The Stone Carvers). The poem walks that fine line between piteousness and and pride, especially in its final line: “the returning walk back towards their northern homeland. Their faces are shadowed, but they are carrying illumination in their arms.”

 

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