Monuments Stand as a Tribute to Women's Spirit (Monuments to Victims of Male Violence in Canadian Cities)

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Monuments Stand as a Tribute to Women's Spirit. LONDON

Approval for the installation of the London Women's Monument in Victoria Park, London's main gathering place for marches and celebrations, squeaked through city council by only one vote late last November. The monument, designed by student artist Leigh Raney, was wheeled into the park on a flatbed truck for a dedication ceremony on December 6, the fifth anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.

After a year of planning and fundraising by the Women's Education, and Research Foundation, the monument won approval at the municipal committee level only after a heated discussion. The debate was acrimonious, as Mayor-elect Diane Haskett stated that she had been assaulted twice and councilor Ben Veel accused supporters of the monument of dividing the community.

Supporters and opponents of the monument intensified lobbying in the week between the committee and council meeting. Councilors were blitzed with telephone calls, faxes and letters.

Lorraine Greaves, a director of the women's foundation, feels that a fragmented opposition actually helped her group's cause. There was very little overt opposition by politicians to the existence of the monument, which was entirely funded through private donations (money is still needed to reach the goal of $15,000), but the site drew criticism from veterans (war memorials stand in the same park), heritage activists, citizens who felt London needed a public art policy before such a monument could be accepted, and a local neighborhood association.

"Many of these people said they owned the park, and it becameclear the opposition was really fragmented, and it should be everybody's park," Greaves said.

"In all of our dealings with politicians, no one said they were opposed to the monument or what it stood for. They all focused on location issues. But on a deeper levee, that masked the real issues, that it was perceived as anti-male and divisive."

A radio talk show host and the editor of a small newspaper continued to rail against the monument after its approval, and teamed up on December 6 for an on-air rant against feminists and what the called "random acts" of violence. VANCOUVER

In Vancouver, critics didn't hide behind the smokescreen of the location of the city's monument to victims of male violence. The words "murdered by men" that appear as part of the monument's inscription has been the focus of criticism from Reform party MPs and others. "(murdered by men" also appears on the Enclave monument in Ottawa.)

Chris McDowell, one of the key organizers of the monument in Vancouver, is adamant about the wording.

"We stick by the truth of it," McDowell says, despite repeated abusive phone calls and several bouts of controversy over the previous two years.

Designed by Beth Alber, the Vancouver monument will be built at Thornton Park in downtown Vancouver later this year, once fundraising is complete. Called "Marker of Change," it will include 14 pink granite benches set in a circle. Vancouver's fundraising goal for its national monument is $300,000 and about half has been raised. The city's Parks Board required that all the funds be in place before work on the monument can begin.

This inscription follows a list of the names of the 14 women slain in the Montreal Massacre:

"We their sisters and brothers, remember, and work for a better world. …