Birth of the Monument Amicitia France-Canada
For the first time, four centuries of shared history and friendship between France and Canada are celebrated through a national monument with an emblematic name: The France-Canada Amicitia Monument.
Located on a forested civilian parcel of the Beechwood National Historic Site in Ottawa, Canada, between the Veteran's Cemetery and the Canadian Armed Forces Cemetery, this site is anchored in the Canadian Shield as a tribute to the geological footprint that covers nearly half of this immense country in a bed of rock and forest.
"A citizen initiative led and supported by great people"
The unprecedented idea of a bi-national monument dedicated to Franco-Canadian friendship was born in 2016 in the mind of a Frenchman, Christophe Raisonnier (a former member of the French National Gendarmerie, founding president of the 1846th section of the Société Nationale d'Entraide de la Médaille Militaire –SNEMM– in Canada and delegate general of the Souvenir français in Canada). For months, he will work on the different phases and means to be implemented for this unprecedented colossal project.
The meeting, in 2017, with André Levesque, Canadian (former reserve soldier of the Canadian Armed Forces, doctor of history very involved in remembrance, Chancellor of the Order of St. John) will give a very strong impetus to this monument project. In 2018, this pair joined forces to design the details of the future monument and took numerous steps to find the ideal site for its construction. The Beechwood National Cemetery site caught their attention and its Foundation, represented by the cemetery's president and executive director, and marketing director, Andrew Roy and Nick McCarthy, was won over by their presentation of the project. The Foundation decided to grant them a large parcel of land for the construction of the monument.
In 2019, the seriousness of the project, which is already well underway, will convince and federate a number of Canadian and French partners, actors of the Franco-Canadian friendship. Thus, the presidents of French associations express their wish to join this civic initiative. Sylvie Bragard for the Union des Français de l'Étranger Ottawa-Gatineau (UFE), Yann-Alexandre Girard for Français du Monde Ottawa-Gatineau (FDM), Jacques Janson and Alain Landry for the Légion d'honneur de la capitale nationale, are enthusiastically committed to this project, with a special mention to Sylvie Bragard for her efficiency and unfailing commitment and to Yann-Alexandre Girard for his constant support. In August 2020, these Ottawa associations (including the 1846th section of the SNEMM), decided to form a federal association, under the name "Monument Amicitia France-Canada" (MAFC). When he took office in 2022, president Jacques Duchesneau of the Association des décorés de l'Ordre national du mérite, very excited by this civic cause, joined the MAFC association.
Despite the sad context of the COVID-19 health crisis, the popularity of this innovative citizen's idea quickly exceeded the expectations of this newly created association and many remarkable people, whether from the public, private or associative sectors, or from non-profit foundations, invested themselves to help make the future monument a reality. The George and Helen Vari Foundation (the first major donor), the Baxter & Alma Ricard Foundation, the Toronto French School (TFS), Power Corporation of Canada, the Champlain Founder's Association (ACF), as well as the French presidents of SNEMM, José Miguel Réal, and of the Souvenir français, Serge Barcellini, will actively and financially support this great Franco-Canadian cause.
Politicians will also make a great contribution to this project such as the French Senator Hélène Conway-Mouret, the Canadian Senator, the Honourable Serge Joyal, the Honourable Mona Fortier, President of the Treasury Board of Canada, the federal Member of Parliament and President of the Canada-France Parliamentary Association, Marie-France Lalonde, and her assistant Anick Tremblay, Senator Yan Chantrel, the French Consular Councillors Francine Watkins and Marc Cormier, and Yann Le Borgne. Volunteers and associations from the Ottawa, Toronto, Montréal and Québec City regions have also expressed their desire to join the MAFC teams and have done admirable work, particularly in the areas of education and communication. They include Gérard Poupée-Hill and Marie Spilka (Toronto), Guillaume Pasquier (president of the Jeunes IHEDN Canada), Florian Caffier (FDM Toronto) and Monica Abhervé-hung (UFE Toronto), André Duquenne (Souvenir français and SNEMM Montreal), Jacques Robidoux (veteran of the Royal 22e Régiment of Québec). The MAFC administrators will thus contribute to anchor the citizen footprint of the monument.
French diplomats will distinguish themselves in this undertaking. Among them, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2019-2022) and former Ambassador of France to Canada (2008-2011), François Delattre, Colonel (Air), Jérôme Lacroix-Leclair, Defence Attaché at the French Embassy in Canada (2019-2022) and his assistant, Chief Warrant Officer Christophe Baldacchino and Brigadier General (Gendarmerie), Samuel Machac, Assistant for Internal Security at the French Embassy in Canada (2019-2022) and upon his arrival, the French Ambassador to Canada, Michel Miraillet.
The Canadian Armed Forces will also be an integral part of this project, their great contribution, their unfailing support are to be made known to all. Let us mention the Vice-Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Lieutenant-General Frances Allen, Lieutenant-General (retired) Walter Semianiw, Major-General Simon Bernard, Major-General (retired) Guy Chapdelaine, Major Martin Colbert, Lieutenant-Colonel Carl Gautier, and Command Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Robin.
All the numerous patrons and donors, as well as the generous financial contributions of the French government (Ministry of the Armed Forces and Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs) and the Canadian government (Department of Veterans Affairs), were essential to the success of this project. Everyone, according to their means, contributed to the construction of this monument. The Canadians and the French will be eternally grateful to them.
"A bi-national intergenerational monument"
This monument was built by Jean-Claude Tessier and his daughter Nathalie Boisvert (MCM Lettrage), whose generosity and passion for the realization and construction of this monument were admirable. Made of grey granite and bronze, measuring seven meters long and three meters high, this monument erected in 2021 is symbolically composed of a sculpture by artist Jan Stohl representing a Marianne (symbol of France) in the heart of a maple leaf (symbol of Canada), a torch (replica of the one existing on the site of the Vimy Memorial) held by a man's arm and the arm of the Marianne identical to the one sculpted on the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris. On each wing of the monument named "France" and "Canada", four of the main civil and military decorations, French and Canadian, are engraved (France: Legion of Honour, Military Medal, National Order of Merit, National Defense Medal – Canada: Victoria Cross, Order of Canada, Order of Military Merit and Police Forces, Meritorious Service Cross). Two flagpoles were installed on either side of the monument. The first French and Canadian flags raised on these flagpoles in June 2021 were flown at the historic Second World War site of Juno Beach.
While the France-Canada Amicitia Monument lends itself perfectly to the duty of remembrance, it is above all an intergenerational educational tool. Canadians and French will be able to evoke the Franco-Canadian friendship in all its aspects and actions, past, present and future, whether social, cultural or commemorative. This monument must be a vector of knowledge and education for our Franco-Canadian youth. The Toronto French School (TFS), a generous donor, is already heavily involved in the development of an educational program around this monument. It is certain that many other schools will join in these educational programs.
As of October 16, 2022, the date of its unveiling to the public, this monument comes to life! It is now up to all French and Canadian citizens, as well as their respective government representatives, to write the history of this young bi-national monument.