Conrad Black’s fall brings dark days for London war memorial

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From left, Queen Elizabeth, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and former media mogul Conrad Black greet Second World War veterans during a ceremony unveiling the Canada Memorial in London on June 3, 1994.

A Canadian war memorial in central London associated with former media baron Conrad Black has fallen into disrepair, serving as little more than a children’s play area.

Inaugurated by the Queen 13 years ago, the granite monument in the centre of the British capital honours the million Canadians who fought and the 110,000 who died alongside Britons in the two world wars.

Canada Memorial, designed by Montreal sculptor Pierre Granche, now sits in Green Park with its plaques smudged and dirty, and children running over its inclined surface. Water used to cascade over bronze maple leaves inset in the red Canadian Shield granite, making it look like leaves floating down a stream, but it was turned off sometime in the spring.

“It’s an impressive thing to see when the water’s running and there aren’t children running all over it,” said Matt Bingley of Barrie, Ont., who has visited the site.

The memorial has been neglected since the Montreal-born Black’s luck began fading. U.S. prosecutors alleged that the former head of the Hollinger newspaper empire and three others had improperly siphoned off millions of dollars from the company. Black was convicted in July of obstruction of justice and three counts of fraud.

Black’s connections to the memorial include serving as co-chair of a five-member design selection committee and using his clout to ensure that the inauguration in 1994 was attended by the Royal Family, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and British Prime Minister John Major.

Black had also created a fund to maintain the memorial. That money has since dried up — and so has the water.

“The water’s off and you can see all these kids treating it like a playground. As a Canadian, I wouldn’t say it’s insulting, but it’s definitely a sign of disrespect,” Bingley told CBC News.

Bingley said he wonders whether anyone even knows that it’s a monument to Canadian soldiers.

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