The memorial for those killed in Canada’s mission in Afghanistan at the new Department of Defence headquarters is to open to the public on Friday afternoon, the department says.
People who aren’t military members, veterans or their families will have to register for visits in advance and be accompanied by Canadian Forces personnel, the department said Thursday.
Visiting hours will be limited: from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and three periods between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturdays.
The centrepiece of the “Afghanistan Memorial Hall” is the cenotaph that once stood at Kandahar Airfield, a key base for much of Canada’s military and aid effort in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014. The cenotaph honoured the more than 160 Canadians who died in the Afghanistan mission, on Afghan soil, and the Canadian Forces brought it back when the mission ended.
The department has taken heavy criticism for putting the memorial in the secure zone of its new building in western Ottawa without an immediate plan to allow visitors who don’t work there.
Chief of the Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance has apologized for what he described as a bad call. The idea, he said, was that the public would be able to visit a separate national memorial closer to central Ottawa, which will be much more accessible.
“I am pleased to see the memorial mall is being visited by families of the fallen and is now open to the public,” Gen. Vance said in a statement announcing the new arrangements. “And I look forward to officially rededicating this memorial alongside families of the fallen to remember their loved ones who made the ultimate sacrifice for us in Afghanistan.”
The department says would-be visitors should send an e-mail to VisitorAfghanMemorial-VisiteurMemorialAfghanforces.gc.ca.