Airdrie City council has commissioned a committee to determine the future of a previously proposed veterans’ memorial project, and to report back to council with results next year.
The decision came during council’s regular meeting on March 20. Before that, council members voted unanimously in favour of looking into installing a new permanent veterans’ memorial in the community during a council meeting last fall.
The proposed site would pay tribute to local veterans past and present who have served to protect the rights and freedoms Canadians enjoy today, according to the notice of motion first brought forward by Mayor Peter Brown back on Oct. 17, 2022.
The mayor’s notice stated the site would also serve as a community focal point and be a place for residents to honour the local men and women who “selflessly serve their country.”
“Such a permanent memorial is viewed as a highly visible reminder for the community’s heroes and the part these people played in our community’s history,” the notice read.
“It reminds us to pause our thoughts to remember and honour the veterans and their memories by living in harmony with one another in our daily lives.”
Brown said the site in its proposed location – Veterans Boulevard – would also present an opportunity for the public to learn more about Airdrie and the people who helped build the community.
“With council’s support, we are able to move forward to start conversations with the Airdrie Legion and veteran’s groups about creating a memorial that could be more visible and accessible,” he said in a statement.
“I am thankful to my council colleagues for their support, and I am excited for the potential of this project.”
With the item back on the council agenda for the March 20 meeting, Jennifer Lutz, team lead of community development with the City, presented to council a project approach and proposed plan to memorialize veterans and their contributions to Canadian society.
After providing the broad strokes to council, she requested further direction regarding the type of monument desired, the definition of a veteran, level of council engagement, project leads, schedule and timeline, and a proposed location. All of these factors would impact both the timeline and the scope of the project.
“Site selection really impacts the complexity of the process and when it was first brought forward [to council] it was a Veterans Boulevard memorial and there was further feedback there could be other locations,” she explained during the meeting, hoping to narrow the scope of the project.
Lutz said determining a location and type of memorial would impact both the timing of the project and the proposed budget, though she added there are many grant opportunities available through the federal government.
“Help on location, location, location, and what our goalposts are would be really helpful in this process,” she said. “I looked at the notice of motion at the time and it seemed clear, but the more you dig, the more questions you have.”
But as it stands, Mayor Brown said there is “no way” he can endorse any type of monument and said he had hoped to see administration undertake further discussions with the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 288 in Airdrie to determine the scope of the project before coming back to council.
“My hope was when I brought this forward that you would meet with veterans in the community,” he said. “I know a number of them reached out to me... I recognize the legion said they were too busy to talk about it right now, but I was eager to hear from them.”
“I think its way ahead from what I thought we were going to do, which is talk to some of the veterans, see what they thought would be a good recognition.”
Coun. Al Jones suggested administration may have missed the mark with regards to last October’s motion, but acknowledged council may have thrown too much at staff that day, and perhaps the direction wasn’t clear.
“I will say, I was expecting more of a collaboration with the legion, being as I’m not seeing anything from the legion... that disappoints me,” he said. “I think there’s a lot more work that can be done before we can approve any direction.”
Lutz explained administration had engaged with the local legion branch, and members there supported an enhancement of the existing cenotaph site in Jensen via memorializing and naming the park. But they first wanted to determine what council’s vision was for the project before moving forward.
Brown reiterated further collaboration with the Airdrie Legion is needed before council can make any decisions regarding the type of monument, budget, or location.
“I would never tell a person from the legion, just like I would never tell an Indigenous person, where the best place to put a statue [is]. So to me, it’s up to them,” Brown explained. “I just really want to explore that opportunity with them.”
Though the mayor’s initial motion had suggested Veterans Boulevard as a site for a permanent memorial, he added if it is the legion’s desire to enhance the existing cenotaph site instead, then that should be explored.
“We welcome them to come here and do anything we can to enhance [the site],” Brown said. “Many people don’t even know the cenotaph exists, so bringing light to that is a good thing too.”
Mayor and council deferred administration to continue negotiations with the legion, explore grant opportunities, keep council abreast of changes and developments, and return with a project plan in 2024.