TORONTO — The Jewish War Veterans of Canada’s Toronto post pledges that despite more than two years of inertia, its memorial in Earl Bales Park will be built as originally planned.
Ground for the Flames of Memory project was broken in October 2005 amid much fanfare, and the project was slated for completion within a year to 18 months. A sign is still up in the northern corner of the park asking for donations, but nothing has been built to date.
In December, the veterans shook up their Toronto post. A new nine-member board ousted longtime Toronto post commander Hy Shulman and executive director Lou Van Delman.
“We’ve had a complete sweep of the prior board,” said new board member Ed Bluestein. He added that the new board is scheduled to meet with the memorial’s “largest sponsors” on Feb. 21.
“The project is a go,” Bluestein said.
Former Toronto municipal politician and police services board chair Norm Gardner was installed as the new Toronto post commander.
Envisioned as a sunken amphitheatre surrounded by a swooping angled wall topped by chanukiyah lights, the $7-million memorial to Jewish combatants is the design of world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind.
It is meant to honour Canadian Jewish war veterans going back to before Confederation, those who fought for Allied countries, and resistance fighters during World War II.
It sits on two acres of land donated by the City of Toronto.
“There’s some people who have contributed [to the project but] who haven’t heard anything,” said Toronto councillor Mike Feldman, in whose ward the park is located. “My responsibility is to make sure the city isn’t left with any liability.”
Feldman told The CJN the war veterans “have to come up with money before we can let them go into the ground.
“[They] have to raise all the money and produce letters of credit to make sure we aren’t responsible for maintenance. All that money has to be secured for the city. That’s the legal contract. So far, they haven’t got enough money to build the thing, so I don’t know how you can secure the rest of it.”
He said he has not heard how much money has been raised to date.
“That sort of gives me concern. I hope that it goes [ahead], but it is sensitive when you’re giving away city parklands.”
The $7-million campaign included a $2-million endowment fund for maintenance and upkeep.
Shulman told The CJN the veterans have to date “raised enough money to keep creditors off our back.”
Despite his ouster, he still feels the memorial is “very, very important. It’s got to be done. If [the new board is] doing a good job, that’s wonderful.”
Van Delman said the veterans have raised “close to” $1 million to date, and that Libeskind has been paid $125,000 so far, with the rest of his fee due only after construction begins.
Van Delman said he has begun legal action against the veterans for unpaid salary.