MONTREAL— Elie Wiesel, the late Nobel Peace Prize-winning author and Holocaust survivor, will be recognized by the City of Montreal with the naming of a new park in his honour.
The city council unanimously ratified a resolution on April 19, first presented by councillor Marvin Rotrand two years ago, urging that a public place be named for Wiesel in time for the fifth anniversary of his death, July 2, 2021.
Rotrand, the son of Holocaust survivors, has made the fulfillment of this project an especially meaningful goal as he marks his 39th year as councillor for Snowdon in the Côte des Neiges-Notre Dame de Grâce (CdN-NDG) borough.
His non-partisan motion to begin the process of finding the right site was adopted by council unanimously in September 2019, seconded by six other councillors. The choice of place was left to the city’s toponymy committee.
Last month, Rotrand, who is an independent, sent an open letter to Mayor Valérie Plante reminding her of that vote and inquiring if her administration would follow through. He suggested April, when Yom ha-Shoah is observed, would be a fitting time to finalize the matter.
The park will be located in Le Westbury, a new residential and commercial development in the Snowdon district, east of Décarie Boulevard and north of Vézina Street.
The city will budget more than $2 million to complete the park, now under construction, Rotrand said.
In addition, the CdN-NDG borough council will be asked to vote at its May 3 meeting to approve a $357,000 contract awarded to Riva Architects to complete the planning and design work, he said.
Rotrand described the future park as the centerpiece of Le Westbury, which will eventually have nearly 1,000 housing units, a hotel, and retail outlets. He notes that the area is close to the Jewish Community Campus and other Jewish institutions.
Rotrand said that the toponymy committee recommended that site back in October 2019, and “it has taken until now to get the proposal on the city council agenda.
“I would like to thank the dozens of organizations that helped us arrive at this important moment,” he said. “Letters from groups in the Jewish community and from many other communities, as well as from organizations working in the field of human rights, were tabled in city council in support of my original motion.
“Civil society has followed this dossier and through 2020 alerted the city that the community wanted the place name ratification to proceed.”
At least part of the park will be open to public use by September, said Rotrand, with full access projected for June 2022.
“Due to the COVID pandemic it will be impossible to host an in-person ceremony to open the park and install a plaque this year, although an online ceremony is a possible alternative,” he added.
“The borough suggests that the official opening ceremony be in the summer of 2022. I will consult the Wiesel family and advise every one of their wishes.”
Wiesel’s legacy of bringing to broad awareness the enormity of the Holocaust and the dangers of hate and injustice wherever it occurs is more important than ever, said Rotrand, who stressed that Wiesel was an outspoken advocate for human rights and dignity until the end of his life.
He had a strong connection to Montreal; a sister lived in the city and he often spoke publicly here. On the first anniversary of Wiesel’s death, Paris, where he had lived, and New York, where he died, named prominent sites commemorating him, Rotrand said.
“Elie Wiesel was a great moral force for our time. His was a life that challenged each and every one of us to never forget the cause of human rights.”