A Look at Who Is Funding Anti-Communist Monument

The anti-communist monument was originally to cost $1.5 million, to be funded by the private organization Tribute to Liberty. However Canadians did not support this project, and the fundraising campaign was a dismal failure. "The group behind a controversial memorial to victims of communism failed to meet its fundraising target last spring," CBC News reported on December 23, 2015.

February 14, 2014 letter from then Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau in support the anti-communist monument.

"According to documents obtained through access to information, Tribute to Liberty, the proponents of the Memorial to the Victims of Communism, committed to raise $1.26 million as its share of the $5.5 million project in an agreement with the Department of Canadian Heritage.

"But by the April 2015 deadline outlined in that agreement, the group reported to a steering committee that it had only raised $900,000.

"'We are disappointed that to date only four of the eight pledges of $100,000 each have honoured their pledges,' the group's treasurer Alide Forstmanis wrote in an April 22 email to Lorraine Pierce-Hull, the coordinator of commemorations and public art at the heritage department."

The monument has received letters of support from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, former Green Party leader Elizabeth May, former NDP leader Tom Mulcair and former federal justice minister Irwin Cotler.

Other letters in support of Tribute to Liberty from (top to bottom, left to right): Irwin Cotler, Elizabeth May, Stephen Harper, Thomas Mulcair, Jason Kenney, Wladyslaw Lizon (click to enlarge).

The fact is that five years after the project began, in 2013, the Harper government pledged $1.5 million to the project, and then pledged an additional $1.5 million in 2014, for a total of $3 million.

"By the end of 2014, the project's budget had ballooned to $5.5 million, with a taxpayer contribution of $4.3 million," the CBC reported in 2021. In 2022, a National Capital Commission (NCC) spokesperson said the estimated total cost of the monument had increased to $7.5 million. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland allocated an additional $4 million to Canadian Heritage in Budget 2021 "to support the completion of the Memorial to the Victims of Communism"[1] which meant that $6 million of the $7.5million was contributed by the federal government, while the Chairman of Tribute to Liberty Ludwik Klimkowski declared at that time that Tribute to Liberty would continue to solicit donations for the project. The webpage of Canadian Heritage now says fundraising is complete.

The Tribute to Liberty website indicates that it is still seeking $1,000 donations in exchange for official commemoration on the wall itself and on the website. A link on the charity's website labelled "donate today" leads to PayPal and an auto-loaded $1,000 donation.

But Tribute to Liberty's treasurer Alide Forstmanis said donations to the wall are no longer being accepted and the organization is only accepting $200 donations for virtual bricks now.

Klimkowski said in an email that Tribute to Liberty's fundraising was finished by the end of 2017 and that all the necessary funding was forwarded to the NCC, which is overseeing construction of the monument. A spokesperson for the NCC indicated that Tribute to Liberty sent $1 million in 2017 and another $500,000 in 2018, and has not transferred any additional funds.

In addition to at least $6 million from the Canadian government, the monument has received substantial funding from virulently anti-communist sources at home and abroad. Tribute to Liberty states that the government of Hungary contributed $121,000, while the governments of Latvia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Taiwan, and Lithuania each donated between $25,000 and $50,000. Four families made five donations of $100,000 or more. Former prime minister Stephen Harper purchased several commemorative bricks, as did then Premier of Alberta Jason Kenney, who was the project's champion while in Harper's cabinet. Senator Linda Frum is listed on the monument's donors page as a legacy donor, having committed over $100,000. Linda Frum and husband Howard Sokolowski raised $400,000 at a fundraiser in their home. Organizations which are known to be founded by and/or are apologists for Nazi collaborators and war criminals also committed substantial funding. They include the Latvian Relief Society of Canada, Ukrainian Canadian Congress, ($50,000-$100,000), Latvian National Federation of Canada, National Office, League of Ukrainian Canadians, General Committee of United Croats of Canada and other Croatian organizations, along with many others.

The General Committee of United Croats of Canada dedicated their contribution to Ante Pavelić, describing him as a "doctor of laws." As leader of the fascist Ustasha, Pavelić led the Nazi puppet regime in occupied Croatia in the former Yugoslavia, where 32,000 Jews, 25,000 Roma and 330,000 Serbs were murdered by the regime, killed in concentration camps, razing of villages, pogroms and massacres. The same organization purchased a brick dedicated to high-ranking Ustasha official Mile Budak, whom they identified simply as a "poet."

"References to Budak and Pavelić have been removed from the Tribute to Liberty website" a CBC report posted in July 2023, wrote. "It's not clear whether the donations were returned; when asked, Ludwik Klimkowski, Tribute to Liberty's chair, said it would be 'premature' to comment." Another Ustasha official, Ivan Orsanic, remains listed on the site, CBC added.

The Knightly Order of Vitéz purchased five bricks. Vitéz members included high-ranking members of the Nazi-puppet government in Hungary established late in the war, which organized the deportation of some 437,000 Hungarian Jews. "It was the biggest, fastest deportation action of the Holocaust," said László Karsai, a professor of history at the University of Szeged in Hungary." Several tens of thousands of Vitéz members got large lands [from] Jewish properties," Karsai told the BBC.

The League of Ukrainian Canadians' Edmonton Branch purchased five virtual bricks in honour of Roman Shukhevych. Shukhevych led the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) during the Second World War and was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Belarusians, Jews, Poles and Ukrainians. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress, which had as its member organization the Brotherhood of Veterans of the 1st Ukrainian Division (Waffen-SS Galizien), also contributed. So did Paul Grod, former President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress who has accompanied both Trudeau and his predecessor, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, on their trips to Ukraine, and who has openly celebrated the Waffen-SS Galizien.[2]

Orest Steciw, executive director of the League of Ukrainian Canadians, told CBC News that while his organization did sponsor bricks for the monument, he cannot name the individuals to whom they were dedicated because he was not the executive director at the time, CBC news reported.

In 2021, Canadian Heritage responded to the exposure of donations in the name of Nazi collaborators and perpetrators of massive war crimes and crimes against humanity by announcing that it would review the final list of names with Tribute to Liberty. While donors are listed (some are anonymous), the list seems to have been whitewashed.

"If Canada commemorates Ante Pavelić or Roman Shukhevych, it can throw its human rights record right in the trash." said Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem.

Zuroff said he's alarmed by efforts to present wartime Nazi collaborators as anti-communist patriots.

"From the beginning of their renewed independence, following the breakup of the Soviet Union, almost all the governments of Eastern Europe – and nationalist elements in diaspora communities – have promoted the canard of equivalency between the crimes of the Third Reich and those of Communism as part of a broader effort to distort the history of the Holocaust and the Second World War," he said.

This article was published in
Volume 53 Number 19 - November 2023

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