Centennial Flame monument to get facelift with Nunavut images

Centennial Flame monument to get facelift with Nunavut images

It may prove to be a tight squeeze, but the Liberal government is planning to wedge symbols representing Nunavut into the Centennial Flame monument on Parliament Hill.

The monument was built to celebrate Canada's 100th birthday in 1967, long before the creation of the vast northern territory of Nunavut some 32 years later.

The Centennial Flame monument is a 12-sided polygon, technically a dodecagon, which includes the shield, official flower and year of joining Confederation for each of the 10 provinces and two territories then in existence.

Newbie Nunavut, though, hasn't been represented — until this year.

Officials with the Canadian Heritage Department, the lead on the project, informed the government of Nunavut on Dec. 22 last year about the plan.

The Senate, House of Commons and National Capital Commission were also consulted, and Public Services and Procurement Canada was put in charge of getting the job done in this sesquicentennial year, Confederation's 150th birthday.

The initiative is referred to in a heavily censored Jan. 18 briefing note for Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly, obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act. Most details of the project are blacked out as "advice" to the minister.

Officials for Canadian Heritage and the Nunavut government confirm they are reviewing "options" for including the territory's flower, the purple saxifrage, its shield and its year of joining Confederation, 1999.

Trimmed or enlarged?

"The government of Canada has no announcement to make at this time," said Natalie Huneault, a Canadian Heritage official, when CBC News asked for details, such as cost and design.

If Ottawa chooses to add a wedge to the existing dozen, the dodecagon would become a tridecagon, or 13-sided polygon. The 12 wedges would have to be trimmed, or the entire structure slightly enlarged, for a 13th wedge with its brass Nunavut shield.

A stone bench encircling the monument would also have to accommodate the carved date 1999, flanked on each side by carved images of the purple saxifrage.

The Centennial Flame was ignited late on Dec. 31, 1966, by then-prime minister Lester B. Pearson. The flame draws on a continuous stream of natural gas from Western Canada that bubbles through water cascading underneath 12 brass shields. The flame helps keep the moving water ice-free in winter.

The monument was supposed to be dismantled after a year, but proved so popular it was left in its place at one end of the walkway on the parliamentary lawn leading north to the Peace Tower. The spot has since become a national meeting place, Canada's town square.

Tourists and wish-makers toss as much as $6,000 in coins each year through its splashing waters, the proceeds handed out annually to a different disabled individual to conduct research.

Shutting down the Centennial Flame for a construction project to add Nunavut would not be unprecedented. The monument was covered with a steel lid in 2002 during a G8 protest to avoid damages.

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