Ontario's memorial to veterans of Afghanistan war ready for next Remembrance Day

TORONTO — A memorial to honour veterans of the war in Afghanistan that is being built on the grounds of the Ontario legislature will include a stone from an Inukshuk that stood at Kandahar Airfield as a tribute to fallen soldiers.

Premier Doug Ford unveiled the design of the monument Friday, saying it will help future generations remember Canada's role in that war and the 158 Canadian soldiers who died.

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"This memorial will be a space for all Ontarians and Canadians to connect with history, read about the sacrifices that were made in the name of freedom and remember those who made them," he said.

The monument will be built on the south lawn of the legislature within the existing Ontario Veterans' Memorial and is expected to be ready for next Remembrance Day.

A pattern of bronze maple leaves will be inlaid in the pavement, connecting the two memorials, said retired Gen. Rick Hillier, who led a consultation panel for the design of the memorial.

"This pattern of leaves will lead people to a ribbon-like piece of bronze...that will bend and fold into seven vertical elements, and each one of those seven elements represents one of the stages of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan," Hillier said.

"When viewed from the north of the memorial, the shape of the bronze will resemble the silhouette of Afghanistan's mountainous landscape and any soldier, airman, airwoman or sailor, whoever served there, will remember that landscape."

The memorial, designed by PFS Studio, will look like a frame when viewed from the south, with imagery of Canadian operations in Afghanistan. Tall, bronze elements in the frame are "reminiscent of the twin towers before terrorists attacked the World Trade Centre on Sept. 11, 2001," the government said in a statement.

The stone from the Inukshuk at Kandahar Airfield that was erected by soldiers there as a tribute to the fallen will be incorporated into a granite bench.

"Visitors will be able to touch this stone and physically connect to its source, almost 11,000 kilometres away," the government said.

More than 40,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces served in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014.

"I truly believe the design will touch every veteran who served in Afghanistan as well as the families of those veterans and the families of our fallen," Hillier said. "It will stand forever, I believe, as a place where visitors can remember the sacrifices of those that died during the conflict, Canada's sons and daughters."

Heritage Minister Lisa MacLeod said the memorial will provide a space for Ontarians to show their respect and gratitude to those Canadian soldiers.

The government also announced Friday that it will offer free weekday, day-time use of Ontario provincial parks to veterans living in the province and active members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 8, 2019.

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